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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23377
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Sun Feb 18, 2007 3:51 am   

Web site ideas?
 
I thought about posting this to my blog, but then decided I wanted more discussion about it.

I spend each Monday getting caught up with support email and forum posts. I end up with a couple of hours left, which isn't quite enough time to get into the programming "zone". I'm not very productive during this time.

Continuing education is an important part of life, no matter what job you are in. Owning your own business makes this hard, since there's never enough time for everything that needs to get done. I feel like there is so much programming that I need to do that I tend to neglect personal development. And yet, there are new technologies, like Ajax, that I'd love to have time to learn and play with.

Today I was looking over the website: the forums, the blogs, the knowledge base, etc. And while it all works pretty well, I think it's missing something.

First, the Blogs area is in desperate need of some organization. I need to separate the personal blogs from the bug fix rants from the technology discussions. I'd like to add a MicroISV area where I can talk about running your own company. Chiara would even like to post some blogs on how a spouse can help with a MicroISV. This requires some technical work on improving the code for the blog area.

More importantly, I'd like to create an area on the site that is more focused on MUD playing. We do a great job on zMUD/CMUD support, but we don't have any area where we can talk about MUD playing more generally. I'd really like to start writing a regular blog on MUD playing. Perhaps an article on how to use a particular feature in CMUD in a real MUD. Perhaps an article on how to use a particular MXP feature in a MUD code base. Maybe articles on improving the future of MUDs in general.

I'd like this area to have a moderated discussion area where we can talk about MUDs, and also how to improve MUDs and attract new players. I'd like to be able to link to various lists of good MUDs and other MUD-related sites.

I know there are several other good MUD discussion sites. But honestly, some of the unmoderated sites are full of a vocal minority that like to flame about particular topics. On this site we would moderate the discussion like we do in all of the forums. We rarely remove topics, but sometimes we lock topics that get out of hand.

I'd like to have a place where we can have mature and serious discussions about MUDs, how to play them, what features we like, how to improve them, etc. I've been a part of the MUD Community for over 12 years, and I realized that if I want to grow this community, then the best place to start might be on my own web site.

So what do people think? Organizing the Blogs is a no-brainer, but what else would people like to see on this site? I think I can take the extra hour or two each Monday to work on this kind of stuff, but I'll need to carefully prioritize what I do and make sure it doesn't become more fun than programming ;)
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Vorax
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Joined: 29 Jun 2001
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Location: USA

PostPosted: Sun Feb 18, 2007 1:55 pm   Re: Web site ideas?
 
Zugg wrote:
More importantly, I'd like to create an area on the site that is more focused on MUD playing. We do a great job on zMUD/CMUD support, but we don't have any area where we can talk about MUD playing more generally. I'd really like to start writing a regular blog on MUD playing. Perhaps an article on how to use a particular feature in CMUD in a real MUD. Perhaps an article on how to use a particular MXP feature in a MUD code base. Maybe articles on improving the future of MUDs in general.

I'd like this area to have a moderated discussion area where we can talk about MUDs, and also how to improve MUDs and attract new players. I'd like to be able to link to various lists of good MUDs and other MUD-related sites.
I think this is an excellent idea. I know I've seen some posts on here with people talking about their muds and being told that this isn't the place for that kind of discussion, but why not? I think this would be a perfect place for that. Generate some real feedback from players and developers about various muds and codebases, etc...

The moderators do a fine job with the rest of the boards. I know a few more couldn't hurt. Wink
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Larkin
Wizard


Joined: 25 Mar 2003
Posts: 1113
Location: USA

PostPosted: Sun Feb 18, 2007 2:14 pm   
 
I'll second that. A general MUD discussion area would go a long way toward helping get people from our games on board and up to speed while also helping MUD creators learn new tricks to speed up their building or enhance their server-side code. Could we have some MUD-specific discussions separated out, too? Like, we have a lot of users from games like Achaea (or any IRE game), Aardwolf, Medievia, etc, so the players would have an easier time finding threads with topics on their game if they were categorized by game rather than client. Or the discussions could be broken down by the type of game engine, such as Smaug, LPMUD, CircleMUD, Rapture (IRE again), etc.

I'm looking forward to improved WSH support in CMUD, and I'm hoping there will be some good discussions on how to use each of the languages to do some neat things in the client. A few articles with examples and explanations would really be great, even just general things like how to use the SQL features in Javascript or how to combine and sort two arrays in VBScript.
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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23377
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Sun Feb 18, 2007 9:31 pm   
 
For some reason, I'm full of ideas today (and didn't sleep much last night). Ever noticed how similar a Discussion Forum, Blog, or Knowledge Base article are? They all have "comments" (replies), and are ways of communicating. The Blog is a one (Zugg) to many (commenters). The Forums are a many (topic poster) to many (topic replies). The Knowledge Base are one (Zugg) to many (commenters) with the addition of a table-of-contents and related topics list on the left.

The Blog needs categories. Blogs also typically have keywords (tags). I think the Forum posts could also really benefit from keywords/tags. Imagine being able to tag your post with the name of the MUD you are talking about, and then people could quickly locate other topics about the same MUD.

Blogs typically allow posting from non-registered users. I don't plan to allow that. Given the spam bot problems we have already had in the past on this site, I think requiring a simple site registration to post comments is still reasonable. I also still believe in moderated forums and blogs to prevent the annoying flame wars that are seen on other sites.

I know there are already other MUD "Community" sites, but I honestly haven't found any that I really like. So what if I added some Community feature to this site? What if I allowed anyone to create their own "MUD Journal" blog thread for free? MUDs themselves could even create a Journal specific to that MUD. Guilds could create a Journal for their Guild. Sort of a cross between Forums and Blogs.

In other words, I don't want to just create a bunch of new forums. It's annoying to click on the Forum list and see dozens of forums for different MUDs, etc. Instead, using the keyword or category concept of Blogs, the categories would be more dynamic. Each MUD would just assign a keyword to their discussion and people could display all Journals, Forum posts, Blogs, etc associated with a particular keyword.

Seems like there is a lot I could do to make this a better MUD community site. But would this just replicate sites that already exist? Are there actually any really good MUD community sites that people really use? If so, what makes those sites really useful? Or what can be improved?
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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23377
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Sun Feb 18, 2007 10:03 pm   
 
I will also be looking into adding TinyMCE to this site to allow WYSIWYG editing and spellchecking for posts, blogs, knowledge base articles, etc. I am also going to investigate ways to properly add some limited Google Adsense to the site, and will be investigating the custom Google site indexing that was mentioned in a past post in this forum. Lots of stuff to do on Mondays (or in the evenings in place of my normal gaming time if it turns out to be a lot of fun playing with this stuff)
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Tech
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Joined: 18 Oct 2000
Posts: 2733
Location: Atlanta, USA

PostPosted: Mon Feb 19, 2007 6:40 pm   
 
I think this is a great idea Zugg. I specifically like the MUD keyword tagging because it gives various package developers a forum to develop package ideas and code together, against a back drop of a larger audience of code reviewers and idea submitters.

What would be a really cool and (a nice upsell) feature is if I searched on keyword for specific MUD or codebase and saw a listing of the packages available and a summary of the functionality they offer.
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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23377
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Mon Feb 19, 2007 7:39 pm   
 
Well, in CMUD of course you can use the MUD Filter in the Shared Package Library to display packages for a specific MUD (or click the Group By button to group the packages by MUD name). Of course, there seems to be a bug in this that currently prevents it from working ;) Not sure the MUD name is getting sent to the package library correctly yet.

But back to the web site...something else I'm considering is a "site membership" which would be a small monthly or yearly fee for more features available on the web site. Stuff like a larger private message box, more blog space, etc. But also a way where "subscribers" would be able to interact with the Package Library directly from the web site instead of just via CMUD, access private forums, and stuff like that.

Again, just some ideas that I'm having that I'm interested in feedback on.
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Guinn
Wizard


Joined: 03 Mar 2001
Posts: 1127
Location: London

PostPosted: Mon Feb 19, 2007 9:08 pm   
 
I like the idea of that. If specific muds subscribed then packages could then be Official or Unofficial. An official package would be one selected by a subscribed admin from the mud in question - would give newbies a good idea of what packages to trust when starting a new mud.
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Larkin
Wizard


Joined: 25 Mar 2003
Posts: 1113
Location: USA

PostPosted: Mon Feb 19, 2007 11:39 pm   
 
I like the tags/keywords idea. I've been using Gmail for quite a long time now, and the labels are far more efficient and intuitive than folders to me. Lots of sites are using open-ended keywords for organizing things that it's become a sort of Web 2.0 standard gimmick.

I've just integrated TinyMCE with a web site I develop part time, and it is a great tool. The plugins capability really adds a lot of power to it and the customization possibilities are near endless.

As far as game/guild site stuff goes, I build my sites on University servers or GooglePages, but I was just thinking today that I wish I could find a (free) forum somewhere that could host discussions on guild matters. Controlling access to forums like that is usually the biggest challenge, really.
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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23377
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 4:59 am   
 
As you can see in the forums, I've made some changes.

a) I modified some of the colors on the site to better blend together. I used some color scheme tools on the web like Color Schemer to help get colors that match each other better.

b) I've attempted to make the forums a bit more "blog-like". I haven't changed the Zugg's Blog yet though (that needs a lot of work). So, I wanted to make the title of the post fit better with the text of the post. I also wanted to remove the "noise" between posts so that it is easier to scan from reply to reply. Basically, I removed the old line that had the various icons for ICQ, PM, EMAIL, etc. Instead, you can now click on the poster's name to view their profile and access these functions. Then, I moves the Posted date to the right of the column and dimmed the text color. I also dimmed the text color of the poster details (number of posts, location, etc). I did all of this to make it easier to focus on the topic and replies.

c) I have given the first topic a different background color than the replies below it (which still alternate between two background colors). Again, just to highlight the main topic a bit more.

d) I also cleaned up the top of the page. I got rid of the "Next Topic" and "Previous Topic" links. I never used them and couldn't really see why someone would, but if someone really needs those functions, let me know. I also got rid of the table header that said stuff like "Author Topic" that was really unneeded.

As always, I'm interested in comments and opinions as I go. Web site style and design can be pretty subjective, so some people might love it, and some other people might hate it. But I'm still interested in what you think.

(btw, if you are still using Firefox 1.5 instead of Firefox 2.0, I *highly* recommend switching like I did today...the as-you-type spellchecking that Firefox 2.0 adds to add memo fields is fantastic!)
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Fang Xianfu
GURU


Joined: 26 Jan 2004
Posts: 5155
Location: United Kingdom

PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 5:29 am   
 
I like the new look and especially the new topic title position - reminds me of the b3ta board (possibly NWS).

I'd be interested to hear more about these colour scheme tools, they're really nice.
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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23377
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 6:12 am   
 
Yeah, except I decided a long time ago that I didn't want a "threaded" forum. I've always believed that the threaded stuff is just harder for new users to read, and doesn't really add a whole lot unless you have *huge* forums like Slashdot.

I did a bit more font adjusting for consistency (the title fonts are all "Trebuchet MS" now). I tried Verdana (which is what the main body text is), and also Arial, but Chiara and I agreed that Trebuchet was the best, especially after we tweaked the letter spacing a bit tighter.

I think I'm done for tonight now ;)
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nexela
Wizard


Joined: 15 Jan 2002
Posts: 1644
Location: USA

PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 7:37 am   
 
Just want to mention these few ideas. Kill em defend em or use em as you see fit. of course I would like to see #2 and #3 fixed :p

1. The post time, new post icon and quote button *might* look better on the left side table by author info as it stands now if there is a subject on the topic (ie first post) it gets pushed down a row which makes the alignment look horrible. and having it on the same line as the title runs the risk of the two overlapping or expending to a second line. As an added plus the new post/read post icon would be on the left side of the screen where eyes are usually focused for reading.

2. The reply box on posting.php (posting_body.tpl if I recall correctly) should be expanded to fill the whole screen to the right (as the quick reply box already does)

3. When editing a post it should include posting_topic_preview.tpl as it does for when creating a new reply *not from quick reply but from posting.php* Code changes detailed below
Code:

In posting.php

REPLACE
'U_REVIEW_TOPIC' => ( $mode == 'reply' ) ? append_sid("posting.$phpEx?mode=topicreview&" . POST_TOPIC_URL . "=$topic_id") : '',
WITH
'U_REVIEW_TOPIC' => ( $mode == 'reply' || $mode == 'editpost' ) ? append_sid("posting.$phpEx?mode=topicreview&" . POST_TOPIC_URL . "=$topic_id") : '',

REPLACE (in // Topic Review near bottom)
if( $mode == 'reply' && $is_auth['auth_read'] )
WITH
if( ($mode == 'reply' || $mode == 'editpost') && $is_auth['auth_read'] )
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shalimar
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Joined: 04 Aug 2002
Posts: 4029
Location: Pensacola, FL, USA

PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:51 pm   
 
I find with the changes its harder to tell where one persons thead ends and the next one starts..
I guess i like a bolder line of distinction between posts then that oh so faint green deal you have goin on, similar to what surrounds the code people post.

Thats the only problem I have with the change really.
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Darker
GURU


Joined: 24 Sep 2000
Posts: 1237
Location: USA

PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:54 pm   
 
There's not a phpbb plugin that'd turn your forum urls from

http://forums.zuggsoft.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?p=106497#106497

to

http://forums.zuggsoft.com/phpbb/viewtopic/p/106497#106497

Is there? Search engines intentionally don't index pages with lots of url parameters - but if you could somehow mask your urls to look like static urls, you'd get better presence in search engines and get a cheap improvement in supporting your users -- who might start their support search on Google instead of Zuggsoft.
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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23377
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 6:09 pm   
 
Nexela:
1) Yes, I'm still stuggling with that. I *want* the extra line space beneath the main title (the first post), which is why the Posted Date is on a different line (allows the main title to be long and gives good white space between the title and main body). However, when someone uses a Subject on a Reply, then it looks a bit worse since all of that space isn't needed. It's possible that I can put the Subject on the same line as the Posted Date for replies.

2) Definitely! The Post Topic, Reply to Topic, etc will all get a major overhaul when I add the keyword tagging and TinyMCE editor stuff.

3) Good idea. I'll try to do that.

Shalimar:
It really depends upon your computer monitor right now (and how sensitive your eyes are to color). On my LCD flat screen, the background color differences between the different posts are quite obvious. But I might be able to make the divider line a bit more obvious. But being able to read easily from one reply to the next was one of the design goals actually. I want it to read more like a continuous discussion. And with the author info on the left, it's still pretty easy to tell that you are reading a new reply I think. But I'll keep working on it.

Darker:
I can probably do something like that with the Apache URL rewriting stuff in .htaccess. I am actually planning to mess with it a bit because I'll eventually be moving stuff away from the "phpbb" directory and into a "forums" directory, so I will need something that can rewrite the old URLs. Having links in a phpbb subdirectory makes us more of a spambot target.

But as far as search engine stuff, we already do *very* well with that, so Google is handling the current links just fine. In fact, there have been several occasions where I have done a Google search for some series of words and ended up with a hit to Zuggsoft.com (usually my blog) on the first page of Google results. But yes, the URL format is something I'll be looking into.
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Seb
Wizard


Joined: 14 Aug 2004
Posts: 1241

PostPosted: Wed Feb 21, 2007 1:40 am   
 
I haven't yet made up my mind on the font changes, but the rest of the new look certainly looks good IMHO (I'm using an LCD laptop screen).

And I migrated to Firefox 2.0 last month (from Avant Browser and IE7) and I've barely looked back. I had intended just to try it out, but I doubt I'll be moving back. The main annoying thing is that a lot of dictionaries (e.g. British) and add-ons aren't yet marked as compatible with Firefox 2.0.1.
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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23377
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Wed Feb 21, 2007 1:52 am   
 
I actually had good luck with my Firefox extensions. All of the ones that I used had versions for 2.0 already. And I really liked how it was able to search for the new extension versions and update them automatically. And most extensions kept their settings too. Yeah, no looking back here...the spell checking is great, and the "memory creep" doesn't seem as bad either (I'll need to wait a couple of days to really judge that however).

OK, I'm giving up my gaming time to tweak the web design a bit more tonight. In the new version I have moved the buttons for quoting and editing a post to the bottom-right corner of the post, and kept the Posted Time in the upper-right corner of the post. This still provides a good amount of space for the post title and yet keeps stuff aligned.

I just couldn't find a good way to put the quote and edit buttons in the author box. Keep in mind that there are more buttons available if you are a moderator, and I needed it to look good for everyone.

I'm not yet sure I like the Edit button at the bottom instead of the top, but it might just be a matter of getting used to it.

I also darkened the divider between replies a bit more.
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Seb
Wizard


Joined: 14 Aug 2004
Posts: 1241

PostPosted: Wed Feb 21, 2007 1:58 am   
 
I prefer the quote button being at the bottom (don't have to scroll back up as much if I want to quote someone).

I just noticed in the thread that I just posted that my subject was truncated - the width of the subject field is now more than gets displayed either in the forum view or the thread view.
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Tech
GURU


Joined: 18 Oct 2000
Posts: 2733
Location: Atlanta, USA

PostPosted: Wed Feb 21, 2007 1:59 am   
 
I like everything you've done so far... except I think the topic heading is a bit too large. It's almost garish and distracting for the main post. A few points smaller should do the trick. It's looks to be about 24 (I'd say 16 or 18 would do better.)
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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23377
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Wed Feb 21, 2007 2:11 am   
 
Tech, I actually did that on purpose. It makes the first post look more like a typical blog entry. Remember that I'll be using the same layout for the forums, blog articles, knowledge-base articles, etc. Take a look at the CMUD Help file as an example. I think the larger title looks good there. So it might just be a matter of getting used to it.

In the past, the title was too small in my opinion and easily lost where it was positioned before.

Of course, I'm testing this all on large high-res LCD monitors, and I'll need to try it on smaller screens to see what I think. It's possible that I might shrink it a couple of points. The other problem is that Trebuchet looks pretty bad with Bold enabled, so it needs to be large enough to look like a title.
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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23377
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Wed Feb 21, 2007 4:38 am   
 
OK, I updated the templates for my Blog entries tonight. They look more like the new forums, and also generally looks more like a professional blog. Check out the New Zugg's Blog page

That's it for tonight.
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Tech
GURU


Joined: 18 Oct 2000
Posts: 2733
Location: Atlanta, USA

PostPosted: Wed Feb 21, 2007 6:45 pm   
 
I see what you mean, it does come off a lot better in the help files, so I'll likely have to get used to it. Admittedly my reaction today is milder than yesterday. :) I use high res screens as well, but I took a look at one of the forums on a 1024X768 screen. It's look OK, but I still (personally) think it's a little on the large side.
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Vorax
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Joined: 29 Jun 2001
Posts: 198
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 22, 2007 12:44 pm   
 
I'd have to say that I'm not too fond of the alternating colors in the posts. If that's not something you're willing to put back like it was I guess I can get used to it. One option would be to create an alternate set of settings, possibly the original settings, and allow users to choose which look (theme) they would like to use. I think that's a common thing that's allowed in PHPbb.
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shalimar
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Joined: 04 Aug 2002
Posts: 4029
Location: Pensacola, FL, USA

PostPosted: Thu Feb 22, 2007 5:24 pm   
 
I dont even see the alternating colors of the posts... but i do like the new thicker post seperaters
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