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12/30/16 Making Some Progress



Time for another update...

1. I've added a couple of "cosmetic" type things that I think will improve the overall ease of use, once people get accustomed to them. Basically, I've been "tooling up" for the trudge ahead.....

  • A topic thumbnail for topics in the forums that automatically pull a picture from from a main topic (not a reply) and use it as visual indicator of what the topic is about.  While it doesn't work too well for topics without pictures (I'm using the club logo as a default picture then) it works well with forums whose topics mostly include pictures, such as Show and Tell.  Between the visual indicator of the topic, and the ability to place your cursor on a topic title and get a "preview" of its contents without clicking, as shown below. it makes it pretty easy to see if you're interested in opening the topic for further discussion.
    • I was so impressed with what these topic thumbnails did, that I had the creator of that plug-in make me a custom plug-in that adds thumbnails to pages (records) for use in the Articles and Research sections' database views.  Most of the pages from the old Simple trACtors site have pictures, unless it cross-reference kind of info.  I think these visual indicators really add a lot of value here -- especially if you're just browsing what is in each section (category), and don't want to page through each one.  Unfortunately, there's no "cursor rollover preview" here, like the one shown for the forums above.  I've asked the guy who created this thumbnail plug-in if he's interested in creating one... We'll see...

2.  As I started adding that old content, trying to make it easy to "turn the page" as you browsed through a section, I initially started manually creating "Next Page" links from one page to the next.  Not only was this very time consuming to create and test, but I found it a real PITA if I got a page out of sequence or needed to add a page somewhere.  So, I had the guy who created the custom record/article thumbnail plug-in above create a custom page navigation "widget" for paging forward and back within a category/section.  It required that I add one more custom field to each database record, for "sequence, or Sort".   That's the added, custom field shown in the gray box below the record Title in the view above.  This field is only visible to Admins, but allows me to easily change the sequence in which pages will be listed in lists and displayed individually, as you page through that section.  The widget that really uses the Sort field is the gray pagination button thing in the bottom right of each record display - as shown below.


It automatically calculates how many pages there are in each section, makes the PREV and NEXT buttons work, and hides the PREV button on the first page and the NEXT button on the last page, as shown above.  It works pretty slick.  All I have to do is enter (or edit) the sequence number for each page in a section to establish or change the sequence. That has really sped up my ability to edit, organize and publish the old Simple trACtors content.

3.  While on the subject of adding in the old content, I have to say that I am quite impressed with how IPS handles and automatically resizes pictures and reformats pages to display on tablets and phones. It is really pretty amazing -- and does it much better than a regular desktop/laptop browser does when you resize a page or change a display setting for a smaller/bigger screen.  But -- and that is a big BUT - it requires that all tables used to organize content must be defined as % of screen width instead of a fixed width setting. And, almost every page of content on the old Simple trACtors site has tables in it, to keep the text and pictures in a defined relationship, showing the words that are talking about the closest picture, etc.  Once you look at the pages describing attachments or tractor features, for example, this becomes pretty evident.  Those pages aren't too bad to clean up, even if I am having to change the link to every picture, and remove the formatting from all text in the page, adding back in the bare minimum of unique text formatting for captions, footnotes, etc.  Where it gets really ugly is cleaning up the tables of specifications.  For example, here's a screen shot of the main body of a page from the old site, showing all the formatting that FrontPage added to the HTML.


That list of HTML code scrolls much wider, and farther down the page.  Now, compare that to the HTML here on the new site that is displaying that same page, for the Allis-Chalmers 716-6sp Specs. In addition to making sure it wasn't using fixed widths, I had a LOT of general cleanup to do.


That's why I keep saying that this is tedious and time consuming work.  By the way, here's what it displays: 

  1. 716-6sp-specs.jpg

All I know is that I DO NOT look forward to the tackling the cross-reference or What Fits? section.... Meanwhile, I've almost completed adding the Allis-Chalmers content back in, and am pretty pleased with how it is working.  It seems to be displaying OK, though the specs tables are still a challenge, and there's a few nice added features, such as the "lightbox" that pops up to display the bigger version of pictures.  (Note that I have to add a few words of code to each of those links -- it is not automatic, like done in the forums.). Plus, the new navigation widget actually works much better than the "up and back" navigation required on the old site.  Being able to add brief descriptions of categories/sections also is a nice added touch, IMO... Different, but I think we can get used to it.

4.  Now for some of the "bug" issues.

  • I had two different users report real bugs with making their dues payments on Apple devices using the Opera browser.  I reported this to IPS, who added error tracking code to the site, to trace what was going on, and the second user's errors allowed them to track it down and fix it.
  • There's still the display issues with the menu in IE 11, and it is being worked, but has not been resolved yet.  This did not appear until the last update to the theme (colors, look, etc) that we're using. But, it is the menu code causing the problem.
  • That same update to the theme and display templates also caused display problems with some of the records in the Research section, such as the History section, once someone left a comment.  IPS helped me track that back to the updated template, and I had to revert back to an earlier, more generic template.  To prevent similar things in the future, I'm in discussions with a guy about possibly developing a custom theme and templates for us -- that we can just use, without updates being required, and try to avoid these kinds of issues in the future.
  • The long delayed and long awaited update to the Classifieds is due out next week, finally.  We'll see if he makes it this time.  This will add in feedback on sellers/buyers, and fix the issue with replies to comments or questions not automatically being routed as they should be.
  • I've opened discussions with yet another guy about working on a new Registry, and moving the old records over. Hope this one works out...

5.  Finally, the latest thing added is the Videos section, which will let us catalog existing videos (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.) and make them more readily available for users to find and use.  Knowing that Sean Falls (aka @ZippoVarga ) had an extensive YouTube channel of helpful videos, I asked him if we could link his videos here.  He was so excited about the ability to better organize them that he volunteered to help link them in, after the holidays.  I think this will be a nice added feature, if we can get a big enough library of them cataloged.  Videos are now now just one more type of information (like PDF files, website links, etc.) that can be very helpful once you reach "critical mass."  I think Sean's extensive work will let us do that rather quickly.  Meanwhile, I hope others find and catalog some they've found helpful - I see that @BLT already has...

6.  Thanks for your patience through this evolution and refinement, but I'm growing more and more excited about the potential of this new software system.  The ability to quickly add things like the thumbnails and page navigation widget above is very nice, with the ability to turn them off and on (like the theme that was causing problems) is so very nice -- rather than having those changes embedded in each page of content like the Frontpage formatting example shown above.  Object-oriented server software is pretty danged nice! dOd

Happy New Year to all! I hope Santa was better to you than you deserve -- whatever level that may be -- such as two lumps of coal instead of just one... &:)


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Just wanted to add that the "custom developer" that I've been using has just completed the "rollover preview" for the individual posts/pages in the Research and Articles sections.  I implemented it late last night.  Here's an example, where my cursor is sitting on the Wonder-Boy Features page in the list, and the preview of that page has popped up on top...

A nice, added feature, IMO....

If you think of things that would improve how to navigate and use the site, please post them in the Bugs and Feedback forum.  I'll see what we can do.  Some things can be done pretty quickly and easily, as shown here...



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Very well explained, Thank you.

But, you are scaring me in wanting to build my own website ;)

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This gives me some idea of the huge effort and the extent of the time involved in moving the previous information and integrating old and new in a much improved format.  If each of us could only spend even an hour to familiarize and explore instead of getting frustrated with differences, positive feedback would skyrocket.  Thanks for your perseverance.  I think many or most developers of such sites would have abandoned efforts for further integration of the old and new.  Again, thanks.

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Thanks for the feedback and understanding.  It is a huge effort, but I'm looking at it as a one-time investment.  Hopefully, it will work for the next 18 years, just as the old site made it almost 18 full years.  Having the old content now n a database, organized into categories (database relationships, in geek-speak) will preserve it for the future, and it will be much more "movable" to new systems or software... The advantages of this new software, are almost impossible to describe. 

I agree that IF folks would spend more time "exploring" they'd come to appreciate it more.  For example, just click to "follow" some bit of content (or a specific poster) somewhere, and see all the built-in options you have to be notified of changes... That kind of rich "potential" is all through-out this software -- such as being able to create your own Activity stream of content you want to see. 

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