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Zugg
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Joined: 25 Sep 2000
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Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:02 pm   

Start posting your website wish-list!
 
Starting this month, I will be rewriting this web site. The current site is written using PHP4, and PHP4 is no longer allowed on sites that perform any sort of credit card processing (something called "PCI Compliance"). Yeah, it's silly because the current PHP4 doesn't any any security problems and I don't store any credit card info on this site at all. But there is nothing I can do about it. Even though my sales volume is low enough that I'm not *required* to have PCI compliance, if there is ever any hacker problem, I could be fined $50,000 and lose my merchant account (and put myself out of business). That's not a risk I'm willing to take much longer.

I'm trying to look at this as an "opportunity". The current site has been mashed together out of various pieces and heavily modified over the years. The forums are PHPBB2 based, and part of the site uses some old MX Portal code for a basic CMS system. The ecommerce is based upon xCart. But the whole site has lots of my own modifications, for both function and for security. Because it's heavily modified, I can no longer just install updates for things like PHPBB. And it's hard for me to customize a lot of the code since I didn't write it myself.

I've learned a lot more about web site development over the past few years, and I've decided to use this as a chance to start fresh with my own PHP5 based site. This will allow me to make the site work exactly as I want it to, and to ensure that there are not any security holes (or at least none that I'm not responsible for). It will also reduce the "bloat" of the site, especially in the online Store where xCart is a complete overkill and has tones of stuff that we don't use. It will allow me to better customize the online store to deal with our license and upgrade policies, and to tie together customers store account with their forum account. It will also allow me to integrate the shared package library with the site, and eventually add some of the MyMuds.com features that I talked about last year.

So, here is your chance. This is obviously going to be a huge job and will probably take more than a month. Right now I am in the early design phases, so if there is some feature you have always wanted to have on this web site, now is the time to tell me about it. I can't promise to implement everything that you post. Obviously I don't want this web site work to take forever because I want to stay focused on the new CMUD mapper as much as possible. So there will be a time limit on what I can add to the site.

This is also the time to think "out of the box". There are lots and lots of forum systems on the web. And they all seem to be clones of each other. Maybe this is proper...maybe the world has settled on how online discussion forums should work. Then again, maybe everyone was just copying everyone else. If you have any interesting ideas on how online discussion forums *should* work, now is the time to talk about it.

Let the discussion begin!
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Zugg
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:09 pm   
 
I'll start with my own list of things that I am thinking about:

1) I want to add a "tagging" system to the forum so that you can search by "keyword". For example, you can tag a post as "mapper" or "linux" or stuff like that. It also will give me a way to add tag categories to my existing blog entries so that you can separate the MUD-related blogs from the Delphi blogs and other Microsoft rants.

2) I want to integrate the bug tracking system with the forums. I want to have a way where authorized people can click a button in a forum thread to "Add this thread to the bug list". Once added, a header for the topic will give the link to the status of the bug in the tracking system. A much better integrated forum and bug tracking system would be a huge benefit to both me and everyone else.

3) I want to use more modern web technology. For example, the Knowledge Base needs to be AJAX enabled so that when you click on a topic in the list on the left it doesn't need to refresh the entire page and reload the entire Contents tree.

That's a start.

Oh, and please don't post comments like "Why write it yourself when you can just use X package". The reason is that there isn't any (free) software available that will do everything that I want. I've looked at various CMS systems, and various bug tracking systems, and various forum systems. None of them integrate with each other very well, and I'd still have the huge job of customizing the system and to convert all of the current content. For example, I want all current forum accounts to remain the same, and all of the current forum posts to remain, and all of the current knowledge base articles, etc. Any ecommerce system needs to handle the existing xcart customer and order database, etc.

By writing the new site myself, I can convert this data myself and ensure that it all works. And then I'll be able to keep it updated and fix problems/add features since it will be all my own code. It took me a month just to customize xCart to handle our software license system and to make the shopping cart work the way I wanted it. So customizing an existing system can take just as long as writing one from scratch. After writing the SlightlyMorbid.com site, my PHP skills are pretty polished, so this is a good time to handle a big job like this.
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Rorso
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Joined: 14 Oct 2000
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:30 pm   
 
Zugg wrote:


Oh, and please don't post comments like "Why write it yourself when you can just use X package". The reason is that there isn't any (free) software available that will do everything that I want. I've looked at various CMS systems, and various bug tracking systems, and various forum systems. None of them integrate with each other very well, and I'd still have the huge job of customizing the system and to convert all of the current content. For example, I want all current forum accounts to remain the same, and all of the current forum posts to remain, and all of the current knowledge base articles, etc. Any ecommerce system needs to handle the existing xcart customer and order database, etc.

Some suggestions:
1. RSS feed support.
2. Linkback/Pingback support.
3. Ability to link to package database from forum.
4. The [zscript] tag.
5. "My threads". Allow the user to bookmark threads in forum to be able to follow if anything new has been added to them.
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Zugg
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:36 pm   
 
1) Don't we already have an RSS feed? Go to the main www.zuggsoft.com home page, and at the bottom of the right column there is an RSS button. Does it not work? If not, explain how you want it to work on the new site.

2) You need to treat me like an old man (which I am). I have no idea what "Linkback/Pingback support" means. Can you give an example or link?

3) Yes, definitely. That is what I meant by "It will also allow me to integrate the shared package library with the site, and eventually add some of the MyMuds.com features that I talked about last year. "

4) Are you volunteering to share your syntax highlighter code for the new site?? :) I'd love to add it.
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Fang Xianfu
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:38 pm   
 
I dunno about the first two - do you mean a feed for the whole forum containing new threads, or a feed for each thread containing new posts, or a feed for each person containing new posts in threads they're watching? I think the third one is the only one that's really worthwhile out of those. I don't think we really do enough linking (certainly not to things that track pingbacks, anyway) here to make adding support for those worthwhile, unless it's stupidly simple.

Package database integration - oh god yes. It'd be nice to have some kind of [library] tag, into which you put some kind of ID for your pacakge, that results in package information being displayed in the post, perhaps even with an expandable settings list and version history, and a download link. That'd be awesome.

And I assume that the [zscript] tag would be a [code] tag, but that would highlight scripts as well?

EDIT: Info on linkbacks on wikipedia, plenty of sources linked there: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linkback

And a feed for each user that tracks new posts only in topics they've chosen to watch (like the email notifications) would be good, I think.
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Tech
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2009 1:55 am   
 
One thing I'd like to see... Add This To Documentation buttons... one for the topic or specific post. Basically it would be a counter system that indicates that a particular bit of information in the topic/post should be included in the official CMUD documentation.

I think the Gurus and you do a good job but I'm sure we don't catch everything. I for one often keep running lists of edits and documentation tweaks, or items to add. They invariably get lost or I lose track of whether I've done them or not, or sometimes even the original context. It can be reset to 0 by Guru when the appropriate topic(s) is/are updated.

I like the idea of watch lists. I often keep tabs open for days (especially on script requests) to post on if no one else has posted yet.

Possibly a [guru] tag... visible and usable only be gurus in public area posts.

We'll probably see major improvements after the update, but a WYSIWIG editor (at least for the KB and documentation would be super-sweet). Then again maybe it's Corporate CMS developer in me that's showing.

Definitely with limits, and only if your server hosting can handle it, being able to embed screen-shots in posts with out the need for external site. This may be a can of worms though.

This one is pretty specific but in your new version release emails, it would be nice to be able to mouse over the link a hover box (I forget what the currently accepted web term is) with the version last version changes. That way I can see what's changed in the last version without clicking through or opening another tab.
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Rorso
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2009 3:03 pm   
 
Zugg wrote:
1) Don't we already have an RSS feed? Go to the main www.zuggsoft.com home page, and at the bottom of the right column there is an RSS button. Does it not work? If not, explain how you want it to work on the new site.

Sorry I read it as you were planning to make a new website and forum from scratch. Didn't realize you would just modify the current one. The RSS feed as it is now is pretty limited. A better system would allow to select RSS feeds for any forum, and blogs. As it is now the RSS feed is just "global" and mostly it doesn't even work. It only displays a few threads in the feed for some mysterious reason. Sometimes none.

Quote:

2) You need to treat me like an old man (which I am). I have no idea what "Linkback/Pingback support" means. Can you give an example or link?

Check this which show an example how it could look. At the top there is a heading "Trackbacks & Pingbacks". Beneath that you see links back to websites that have linked to the example site's article. It would probably have to be implemented carefully so that you could post links without causing it to happen if it is needed. The benefit of it is to get links here on other websites almost for free.

Quote:

3) Yes, definitely. That is what I meant by "It will also allow me to integrate the shared package library with the site, and eventually add some of the MyMuds.com features that I talked about last year. "

I dream about/of/in/on/at improving my English Very Happy.
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Zugg
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2009 6:16 pm   
 
Quote:
Sorry I read it as you were planning to make a new website and forum from scratch.

Yes, I am writing a new website and forum from scratch, but I will try very hard to include all of the current functionality. So you don't need to mention things that are already implemented on the site, since they will still be implemented in the new site. The purpose of this thread was to talk about *new* things that the site doesn't already do.

But I can agree that expanding the current RSS feature might be useful. The current feed only displays "new" posts. I don't want to get too carried away with RSS, since with too many feeds it just gets confusing and then nobody uses it. What I'll likely implement is a improved "global" feed for new posts, and a feed for your own "My threads" idea so that you can view updates to the threads you are monitoring. A separate Blog feed is also a reasonable idea. Not sure about a separate feed for each forum though...that might be overkill.

Quote:
The benefit of it is to get links here on other websites almost for free.

I guess I still don't get it. In the example you posted, the Trackbacks/Pingbacks section just gives links to other sites that linked to his blog. His blog was going to get those links regardless of the Trackbacks. While I can see some potential use for this in my own blog, I don't see any use for this in the actual forums. Just seems like additional clutter to me. Maybe I still don't "get it".
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Rorso
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2009 6:25 pm   
 
Zugg wrote:

I guess I still don't get it. In the example you posted, the Trackbacks/Pingbacks section just gives links to other sites that linked to his blog. His blog was going to get those links regardless of the Trackbacks. While I can see some potential use for this in my own blog, I don't see any use for this in the actual forums. Just seems like additional clutter to me. Maybe I still don't "get it".

Sure he would still get those links. The benefit come when you refer to someone else's site. Then you get a a link back on their site. I think it is best explained at http://www.topmudsites.com/forums/misc.php?do=linkbacks

Edit: Another feature you could consider is to automatically resolve URL names. For example if I post a url to http://www.google.com then the forum could visit www.google.com to retrieve the title of the page. Then replace the url I posted with <a href="http://www.google.com">Google</a> so that you get the title of the page as link. This is actually done on TMS but there are always the exceptions where you do not want it to automatically set the title, as you might have one of your own you would like to use.
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Arde
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Joined: 09 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2009 6:36 pm   
 
Tech wrote:
One thing I'd like to see... Add This To Documentation buttons... one for the topic or specific post. Basically it would be a counter system that indicates that a particular bit of information in the topic/post should be included in the official CMUD documentation. I think the Gurus and you do a good job but I'm sure we don't catch everything.

Cool! Exclamation May be this will finally transform existing "Thousands of pages of documentation" into the "Thousands of pages of documentation full of usable tips and tricks" Rolling Eyes
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Fang Xianfu
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2009 8:30 pm   
 
The basic idea is that because we linked to them, and we give them a pingback, they will automatically link to us, with no intervention at all from anyone. But I still don't think we do enough linking here to make it worthwhile - most posts just link internally to this site, so unless it's very simple to add, it's probably going to be more hassle than it benefits. Same goes goes for automatic titles for pages.

And yeah, it might, Arde - trouble is, it's really difficult to work out where to fit in these tips and how to organise them. A lot of them are very specific (like "use #print over #show, #say or #echo because #print isn't checked for triggers") but also refer to more than one help file, so they can't just be added to a single one. For example, if we put that advice in #print, nobody would ever find it, but it'd be a bit redundant to copy the same thing into the other three files. So there needs to be somewhere to keep tips like this.

Once you really get going with that, though, you'll end up with a directory full of tips with no organising structure - but putting them into simple categories is really quite hard. I think the tags will help immeasurably with that, though. Perhaps there could be a way for a moderator to mark a specific post as a Tip, and then have a section in the docs that collects posts that've been so marked, arranged by their tags so that tips can be in more than one category at once. That'd be quite useful, I think.
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Arde
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2009 9:33 pm   
 
Fang, If you thought about complicated script examples, then may be you are right on tag system. Personally I have no idea on this case yet. But if we are talking about 1-command demonstration, or about complex code block which main task is to show how 1 specific command works, then tips should go to the commands\functions list and only there, no need to make any cross-references. Yes, you're right, Fang. There are many cross-references in the help system (try, for example, make a search for the "Trigger" keyword - you'll get Package Editor help, #TRIGGER help, Triggers help, What's new help...). But do you agree that in my example the Package Editor is not the right place for tips? As well as "Triggers" topic - I would expect that there I can find detailed entry- and mid-level explanations on how triggers work, but not tips and tricks. So what's left? #TRIGGER help article. Why one ever need to make a reference on tips and tricks from everywhere in the help? Let's everyone know where they can find tips. Btw, this will help to develop currently almost ignored section of the help system - commands\functions list.

Guru could select useful tip, press "Add This To Doc" button and then site script should pop up a window asking the name of a command\function the Guru want to link this tip to and store his answer along with tip somewhere. Something like a copy of the current comments system, but only for Gurus. That's all, quick and simple. I say it once again - it is quick and simple and will not take much time for a Guru, who may not have time for full-scale editing right now, when he sees some good code example. Later, when one of the Gurus will have time\will to add some tips to the actual help article, he can review all collected tips so far and add some of them.
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Fang Xianfu
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2009 10:04 pm   
 
I think Tech's idea was more about creating a sort of to-do list for the documentation. Since we'd likely have to clean up any text anyway for it to make sense in the context of the help files, the main hassle is actually remembering what stuff needs adding - so a feature like that would just add it to a list for us to add to something, somewhere. And I do think that'd be very useful.

That's more about just keeping the help files up-to-date, though. Incorporating things like extra trigger explanations is fair enough, and applies to just about any article - you just need to post in that article's comments thread about what you think is unclear or missing from the article. You needn't write the text yourself, just say that something needs doing and we'll get around to it.

I was talking more about the wealth of small things that we say all the time and that people don't know - things like this or this. There're plenty of things like that that don't directly relate to any particular area (like those two relate to zMUD) and having a place to collect them would be great. I think tags are the best way of organising that kind of advice.

One other feature request - being able to view topics in the Knowledge Base that have replies. Normally, replies mean that something needs changing, and being able to view only topics that have replies would be a great way to keep track of that sort of feedback.
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Rorso
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2009 10:25 pm   
 
I remember some years ago when Zuggsoft used Snitz forum system. Back then when you tried to make a post the forum software would make a quick search to show similar posts. It was pretty useful.
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Zugg
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 2:50 am   
 
Yeah, but as we have seen with trying to improve the Search on this site (using Google, etc), it's very hard to make a really good list of "similar" posts. Back in the Snitz days, there weren't nearly as many posts as we have now. And honestly, I personally only use the Quick Reply box...I never want it to display a list of similar posts, I just want it to post it.

I'm not sure we can really "force" people to search before posting if they are set on posting anyway.

Yeah, nostalgia...before Snitz we used a custom ColdFusion forum system written from scratch by Darker! Then it was Snitz using ASP, then PHPBB using PHP. Now we are going back to a custom system. Full circle I guess.

Feel free to talk about wild ideas. But keep in mind that in reality, I'm probably going to go for simpler solutions. I cannot let this take over my life and spend 6-months on the new web site. It's a huge worry for me, because I know that I tend to get dragged into projects like that. And some of it will probably even be fun. But my goal isn't to design the world's best forum and CMS system. It's to make a system that is good enough to do what we need on this site. Things like the Linkbacks are a good example of stuff that you might want on general-purpose high-volume blog sites, but as Fang said, it's probably worthless for our forums here.

So we need to walk a fine line between wild stuff that is way too much work for the benefit, and yet still improve what we already have. Things like linking the forums, knowledge base, bug tracker, etc are really the key parts to this I think. It's the kind of stuff that we would all use everyday.

Something else that occurred to me when Rorso mentioned "My Threads" is converting the silly and worthless Private Message (PM) system that we have now into a more "private forum thread" basis. I hate using PMs right now because you can't see the message that you are replying too or maintain any sort of history. Implementing this as just another kind of forum thread that is private to both participants would be a big improvement. I'm actually surprised that forums haven't done something like this before...I hate most PM systems. They are just crude web-based email attempts rather than actually making better use of the existing forum software.
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Zugg
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 2:53 am   
 
Regarding the comment and examples in the help, I agree that a way to more easily add something to the documentation could be useful. I also think some sort of "rating" system in the comments could help. A comment that gets rated highly as a useful example might trigger a threshold that allows it to be sent to the CMUD help system, for example.

I can even imagine using ratings in the normal forum system where highly rated replies get highlighted, and maybe "bad" replies get hidden. Something more than just the moderators, but allowing anyone to rate replies. I've seen this implemented already in other forum systems and it works pretty well.
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Fang Xianfu
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 3:10 am   
 
Incidentally, iPhones do something very similar to that "private forum thread" thing with text messages - it's a million times more useful than you'd think at first glance. But please make it possible to delete part of a thread without deleting the whole thing - if you're talking to someone for 50 or so posts, you don't really need to keep the first few around any more.

Ratings do work quite well; might be worth looking at.

Simple suggestion - keep forum posts for KB articles, but show the contents of those articles in the first post, so you can see what you're talking about without having to swap back and forth.
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Zugg
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 3:15 am   
 
The idea on the private threads would be that you'd create a new thread for each new conversation...so threads are still "topic based". When you delete a private thread, it still remains on the server and visible to the other party until they delete it too. Once both parties delete the topic, then it's actually deleted from the database. But if the other party adds a new response to the thread that you have deleted, then the thread "reactivates" and appears again at the top of your private threads.

And yes, the integration between the KB articles and the forum list definitely needs improvement. That's one of the areas were you can really see the transition between the PHPBB and the MX Portal modules. MX Portal stores the KB in the forums, but the forum doesn't know how to access the actual data in the KB article. There is a similar issue with the Blog module where you can view the blogs in the Forum view completely differently than in the blog view. Those are the kinds of loose ends that I really want to clean up. The new site should be much more modular and consistent, and that will be a natural outcome of the rewrite.

Another good reason to do a rewrite instead of trying to patch together a bunch of 3rd party modules like we do now.
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Fang Xianfu
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 4:04 am   
 
It'd be nice, in that case, if you could have more than two people in your private thread - and perhaps be able to add more people at a later time, too.
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Rorso
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 11:55 am   
 
Fang Xianfu wrote:
It'd be nice, in that case, if you could have more than two people in your private thread - and perhaps be able to add more people at a later time, too.

Guild/Mud forums maybe?
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Fang Xianfu
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 12:20 pm   
 
Well, that's a whoooole different thing and should probably be kept for MyMuds. I was just thinking of something like this. In case you've never used the site, the interface for it is just like a PM, except you can put as many names as you like in the To: box and then there's a quick reply box at the bottom just like a forum thread.

PS. Blacking out all that lot was such a hassle, I hope you're happy :P
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Rorso
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 1:13 pm   
 
It looks pretty nice, though I doubt it is something I would personally use. It could be a good idea if the new website is planned with support for MyMuds. Else you get two different websites to maintain. For example the forums on MyMuds.com are probably the same forums as here. It is perhaps just the layout, order of forums, and some additional functionality that differ.
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Zugg
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 5:39 pm   
 
Yes, my plan is to have the new site be the same as the MyMuds.com site in many ways. In a sense I'm doing some of the MyMuds work now because our Zuggsoft site needs it. So even if I don't implement all of the features right away, I want the site and database design to allow for the MyMuds functionality in the future.

So yes, the private forum threads will allow you to invite multiple people. And the database will be designed to allow guild/clan/mud forums for the later MyMuds stuff. And I'll be able to specify which forums are available/listed on which site. So the zuggsoft.com and the MyMuds.com site will share common logins, for example, allowing people who have a long-established forum username here to keep that same name on MyMuds.com. The zuggsoft.com site will show the forums related to CMUD/zMUD support, while the MyMuds.com site will have the forums related to general MUD playing.

So Rorso is basically correct on this one...I don't want to manage multiple sites. That's why I'm spending extra time with our current server move to ensure that I have the software and tools that I need to easily maintain multiple virtual sites/domains.
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Rorso
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 6:11 pm   
 
This suggestion is probably somewhere between both MyMuds and Zuggsoft.com. Why not let the users register what MUDs they play or are interested in? Similarly they could fill in a player profile. Both of which you could chose to be kept secret or public. For example you could fill in that you like MUDs that are newbie friendly and that you dislike PK MUDs.

I don't remember exactly the goal MyMuds have but if the goal is to make some kind of community website, then you could use the information to help the user. For example if you were to accept advertisements from MUDs you could increase the chance to show ads from MUDs with similar profiles to the user. You could also prioritize showing other information that the user would be interested about.

It is also useful on Zuggsoft.com forums because when you try to help someone to make a script you realize that quite often it is the same script you are making, but for another MUD. That is you might want to give a hint that a thread might be about a certain MUD. So when posting a question the OP would get a combo-box where he would select what MUD the question is about. Perhaps also what version of cMUD/zMUD that is used.
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Fang Xianfu
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 10, 2009 11:49 pm   
 
Another small one - better tools for arranging the order of KB articles in the sidebar, with the default being alphabetical.
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