Category Archives: Site Development

A Mausoleum, A Magazine, and Networking

More History Basics today. The post on Bushmead Priory took about a week to concoct. That was the only completed post I had in reserve. So today, I rather anticipated putting up a bunch of researchy links for some posts, to come back and edit later.

But the place I wrote about over there today, didn’t seem to have a lot in the way of work that had been done on it, and there were a lot less Other Things that it was part of, so I surprised myself by writing the whole post in a day (which is kind of the intent).

The post over there was about a 17th century mausoleum. It’s intact, and stuck on the side of what looks to be a functional church. Not much in the way of research has needed to happen around the site, though there has been some. I had a bit of fun when there was a reference to “‘The Gentlemans Magazine’ in Monuments of the Grey Family at Flitton”. What’s a gentleman’s magazine doing there? Turns out that The Gentleman’s Magazine was a twice-yearly publication that went for nearly 200 years, and when I found the volume in question, it turned out there were over 650 pages. Some magazine. The first digitised copy I found was on archive.org, and it was missing those particular pages. Google Books had a scan with those pages intact. The Gentleman’s Magazine also has the distinction of being the first magazine to use the term “magazine”. So while 678 (IIRC) pages sounds like a lot, it just means our current magazines are just slacking.

You learn something new every day.

I’ve been thinking about doing Facebook pages for this site and History Basics. On the plus side, if I invite my friends to like those pages, that’s an initial burst of awareness. On the negative side, someone going back over their feed isn’t guaranteed to see all that they are subscribed to, unless you pay Facebook. And, maybe it’s down to the time of day that I post that I’ve blogged here, but I don’t get a great deal of interaction on the stuff there. I’ve been considering using Ello, as they don’t hide content that you’ve subscribed to see, the drawback there being that I don’t think many people I know are on there. If you are on Ello, follow me at https://ello.co/commander_frog, and I’ll start doing more stuff over there.

The New Site Is Live!

Let me start by saying a little about what I did.

I installed the plugins. One to help with site administration is Google Analytics by Yoast, and one to help with content presentation is Geo Mashup.

The site I unveil today, is History Basics.

Sometimes, information about the past is very forthcoming, and sometimes it’s not very forthcoming at all. There has been a lot of archaeological work that has happened, but sometimes finding out about it is non-intuitive. Documentation may be in a local, national, or international publication, or in a book, or perhaps it may be entirely unpublished.

There are frequently articles about archaeological finds, and it seems that a lot of them do not mention who’s doing the work.

Also, what we do have isn’t necessarily safe. Sometimes finds corrode or erode quickly after they’ve been discovered. Sometimes care isn’t taken with objects: how much more might we know about ancient Egyptian practices if rich Victorians hadn’t had a penchant for mummy-unwrappings. And in the riots in Egypt a couple of years back, some mummies were destroyed, museums in Iraq were looted during the Coalition invasion, Joseph’s tomb in Israel has been attacked several times, a proposed high-speed rail line in England has archaeologists scrambling to find out what might be in its path.

And so on.

Also, conclusions are drawn from findings, and sometimes new findings generate new conclusions (sometimes new conclusions arrive all by themselves). The conclusions might not manage to accommodate all the available evidence. Like life, it’s kinda messy. So I don’t mind presenting conclusions, but I do want to emphasise that on which the conclusions are based (and that which the conclusions ignore).

So, a disorganised field to organise, a world to save (in the “archive” sense of the word, like Donna Noble in the Library). And hopefully make research easier for anyone who wants or needs to (I’m trying to aim the writing so it can be engaged by teens in school, and anyone older than that).

I’m not strictly limiting myself to archaeological sites, as the messiness rears its ugly head again: there’s a 12th-Century church I know of that’s still in active use, and there’s certainly many archaeological sites contemporary and much more recent, so while I intend to have an archaeological focus, it’s not a criteria I will rigidly adhere to.

So that’s something in the way of the underlying idea behind the project.

I spent much of today cleaning up the showcase entry on the site: I noticed surprisingly little spelling that needed cleaned up, but some bolding, italicising, and rather a lot of making links look not-dorky. It’ll take you a while to read it, but check out the entry on Bushmead Priory over there, to get the feel of what I’m going for.

Why Bushmead Priory, you may ask?

When I was looking for a starting point, I found a list of sites that would make a great base to build from. It was Wikipedia’s list of English Heritage properties. I went through the whole list, finding the co-ordinates on Google Maps (and occasionally Bing, when Google’s image wasn’t quite adequate). Then I started over, gathering the PastScape data. And a few months ago, when I decided I really needed to get a full-fledged post done, that was quite literally the top of the list.

After I got that entry all finished, I had a bit of a battle of wills getting the forum set up. I don’t want to start with too many sections on the thing until there’s a bit more of a demand, but I got some sections set up and described, and a couple of threads started. Such is the state of things, though, that I’m using the Admin account and another account that I’ve set up for myself, and I’ve had to use the Admin account to approve the posts that I have made with the other one (one more to go).

So there, we go, this actually feels like a start, now. To invert a line from a movie (the original line including the movie’s title), “we must go forward… to the past!”

Installing Sections Of The Site

Watch out, today’s going to be technical. I’ll try to not make it too obscure, but I don’t think I’ll be able to avoid all the technical stuff.

So, with the domain name and hosting bought yesterday, and the Internet caught up to the fact that there’s actually something at the web address, today I started turning it into one of those website thingies I’ve been hearing so much about.

First up was the WordPress install, for the bulk of the actual content on the site. WordPress is what this site is built on. Now an issue I have been running into, but haven’t been troubled enough by to fix, is the url. The web address. You’ll notice that on this site, rather than being http://www.thelimeyfrog.com, the site shows as straight http://thelimeyfrog.com. I’m not sure that there’s functionally a lot of difference, but I think the www is more familiar to a lot of people.

Some searching on the issue yesterday didn’t yield any results, to today I went straight into experimentation, installing to some subfolder that, long story short, didn’t to what I wanted it to. So I deleted the folders, deleted the database, tried to start over. This second time, the installer ran, but loading the site threw up some errors. So I deleted files, deleted the database, tried it again… and the installer threw up errors.

Now this installer is some automatic “we’ll set it up for you” program that the hosting service provides, but that’s not the only way to do it. The easiest, if you don’t overthink things like I do, but not the only way. The other way is to download the WordPress program, edit a configuration file, and upload the whole shebang to where you want it. Then you point your browser to the installation file, and then it’s all set up pretty quickly.

I started uploading the files via a couple of web-based file uploaders that the host provides. There are two File Managers that let me do this (hence the trying with the plural), but they only let me select one. file. at. a. time. Well, to borrow a phrase, “that ain’t working”.

The other way to do it is via FTP, which stands for “File Transfer Protocol”. Practically, this involves downloading a program and installing it on the computer, which you have to set up with the right settings to actually connect to the web server (second time lucky, there), then it’ll let you drag-and-drop files onto the server. But not from the Explorer window you already have open, you have to browse to it again in the program.

In the end, this worked fine, and stood me in good stead for a bit later on in the story. And then I implemented the solution I found to the www issue that I’d found in the meantime.

There’s a setting in WordPress, in the General settings, where it gives you a couple of fields to enter the site URL and the WordPress URL – you can just add the www to it. Which in hindsight should have been obvious, but I was somehow still expecting it to be a folder-based problem.

That part all sorted out, I turn my attention to the other big install that needed doing: the forum. I’ve spent a bunch of time on phpBB forums, and I’ve played around with them a bit, so that seemed like the obvious choice. I set up the subdomain (forum.[I’m not telling you what the site is yet].com), then used the site’s automatic installer to install it there. Worked just fine.

But.

Going into administrator settings revealed that there was a newer version of phpBB (if I remember correctly, it was on 3.0.12 and there was a 3.0.14), so I went to get that. Going to download the newest 3.0.x, it asked me if I didn’t really want the newest 3.1.x. I tried having a look into what the difference was, and a cursory look suggested that the main reasons to keep 3.0.x was that a bunch of add-ons that work on 3.0 wouldn’t work on 3.1.
Not being that interested in these add-ons at this point, I looked up how to upgrade from 3.0 to 3.1. It involved downloading the files (unzipping them and all that), there were three folders and a file to delete from the download, then on the server delete all the forum files except those three folders and the file, then upload everything else. This is where the FTP program came in handy a second time.

Next on the list of things to do for the site, is to add some plugins to WordPress, and set up how I want that to be displayed, and fiddle with some basic settings on phpBB so that at the very least it’s branded as my site, and not the generic defaults.

After that: enough content that I’ll be happy to give people a link to the new site.

A New Year, A New Start

So I’ve taken a little break from blogging since the night before Christmas, and today is the day I start back.

I am also starting to make an extra effort to bring the website that I’ve been doing research for, kicking and screaming into reality. It’s really time to bite the mullet on this one. I’ve been gathering various parts for this one for a long time, but without the work being out in the wild, it doesn’t outwardly look like I’ve done very much. So today I bought the domain, I bought some hosting, and I transferred some money from the Old Country (England, of course) to America to cover it.

It may have been easier to have paid straight from the English account, but the hosting I got would have added $35 just for EU VAT (“value siphoning tax”), and it looked like the transaction was still in dollars, so chances are that the bank would have slapped some extra currency conversion charge on top.

No point paying money that I don’t have to. I used TransferWise, which I discovered a long time ago (probably via moneysavingexpert.com), which charged a pound to send the money (covering 3 years domain name and hosting), using mid-market rates (the kind of exchange rate you see on xe.com/ucc, and you never get that good a deal with your bank).

There is a podcast I listen to regularly*, and the host has an adage that he repeats from time to time, which would seem to be embodied in this case. “Money goes where it’s treated well.” Is my money better treated with a tiny part going to TransferWise, or with a larger proportion being skimmed by banks and taxes? I’m in a position where I’m able to make this decision without any obligation to the EU.

Incidentally, between the time I last had to transfer money, and this time, a friend of mine was in some ads for TransferWise. Seen a photo of him on the London Underground, underneath his picture on the advert. Funny old world.

I won’t say anything about the new site right now. I’m looking forward to it, of course, and there have been some vague hints in my writing so far. I’ll say more when there’s actually a site to look at.

So, yes, in wording slightly different from the title of this entry, new year and new beginnings.

Let’s see where we end up this time in 2017! Potential for a lot to happen.

*I say “regularly”, but, like all the other podcasts I listen to, I download frequently, then binge-listen.

The Best Laid Plans Of Mice

Well, it’s been rather a long time since I declared my intent to work on posts for my intended new site. When I declared that, my hope was to work towards a post a day (which would be a great idea). Today, I believe I have completed the first post.

Now, some days I’ve been able to put more effort in than others, and it would be selfish to not help kids with their schoolwork, or to not let my wife get on with her own project (I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’ve been entirely unselfish, however). Plus this blog takes time (good writing practice, though)….

Anyway. That first post was, I believe, as thorough as I could make it, without emailing a bunch of people for extra information, and probably having to pay through the nose for it, and without learning at least Latin, and probably at least one obscure form of English, and learning to read some peculiar (to my eyes) handwriting styles.

That being said, I found one source that had some footnotes, then when examining those footnotes I discovered some major inadequacies and had to go on a big search hunt, which yielded another source (of potential future value) with better (but not perfect) footnotes, went through a table of abbreviations to discover meanings, more searching for a stack of original documents, some of which were readily available and some much less so, and so on. And then the original source has abbreviated footnotes, with nowhere obvious to explain the abbreviations, making looking them up unfruitful.

It was fun, and I found out a lot (I like to think I’ve learned some things, too), and some of the work ought to take some of the load off of some future entries.

So yeah, an entry a day, definitely ambitious. An entry a week might be something to aim for, if they’re going to be that comprehensive. Just looking at what I had to start with, this entry didn’t look like it would be a lot of work. There are some that look like they will be a bit less, but then there’s some that look like they will be a lot more. It will be interesting to see how accurate such predictions turn out to be.

I started with a small portion of a very wide field, and I think this portion is, if not particularly organised, blessed with some structures that assist research. Branching out to other parts of the field seems like a long way off (though perhaps I should do some alternating, as some of those other portions seem more in need of the help), but I’m already trying to think about how those will work.

What I Need To Do To Turn My Planned Project Into A Reality

I’ve mentioned before about the site I want to make. I haven’t gone into much in the way of details about what it’s about. Intentionally so, not because I think you’ll steal my idea, but more because I hope the vagueness now, will make the unveiling more exciting.

Here’s basically the things that I need to do to get it going.

1. POSTS
Turn research into content. Lots of research done so far. Try and get to a post a day.
STATUS: Lousy

2. CONTINUE RESEARCH
Accumulate a bunch for making posts easier, keep ahead so you don’t run out.
STATUS: Pretty good on current list. Resources available to continue afterwards.

3. LOOK OF WEBSITE
As long as it’s easy to navigate, how it looks is less important: at the same time, don’t actually want it to look terrible.
Can be worked on after the site is up, but is also less likely to be worked on after the site is up than before.
STATUS: Poor. Think I have a handle on menus.

4. EXTRA CONTENT:
Have some ideas for podiobook-able things, which will also help extend brand. Located microphone, think taking laptop to garage, and recording under blanket, would work.
STATUS: still relatively concept.

5. PREMIUM CONTENT:
Conversion services: software cursorily tested. Results promising, with caveats. No negotiations entered into. More thorough testing required, may benefit from purchasing sample materials for conversion (possible). Conversion process needs tested, particularly master new format (have test document ready and software installed, not progressed far in the conversion efforts yet).
Translation services: Entirely theoretical.
Audiobooks with site/author/reader/(translator) only at the beginning and end, not at the beginning/end of Every File (unless the book’s really short and only one file).

6. OTHER REVENUE:
Advertising. Have some ideas of who to approach. (also see who approaches). Need established site to make it worth their while. Decide number of spots, perhaps decide on genres for these spots.
Membership. Discounts to sponsors, discount to stuff we sell. Discounts to other people. Make it worth more than cost. Also contingent on establishment.

7. OTHER THINGS TO IMPLEMENT:
Community: forum software. PHPBB probably. Making it look right, I don’t want to think about at the moment. I’ve at least played with the software, call it a STATUS of 7%.
Submissions: Anticipate needing to ask for photos. Integration may be the issue. STATUS: concept only.
Amend a plugin to customize images used. STATUS: Started. Back-burner now, needs lots of concentration.
Find a plugin to implement different-language versions of the site. STATUS: A thought.

Bits And Pieces

Just a quick one tonight, as the power’s going to go off in not-too-long, and the outage is supposed to last until about when it’ll be time to get up.

I’ve crossed a few things off my to-do list the last couple of days. Sorted payment for the web sites, arranged an eye test because I need a new prescription to get a new pair of glasses (my current pair got scratched while playing hide and seek with Oldest outside, in the dark), wrote the first draft of an article for a site I frequent. Did some of the data collection for my planned site. Some items go really quickly, and some take a really long time (such as the last one I did today.

The Steam key for Civ IV came through, am going to try and enter that before we lose power.

Played some Final Fantasy VII with Oldest today (disc 1, having left the Gold Saucer, we got to Cosmo Canyon, for those that means anything to). Oldest, familiar with the Star Wars music, recently saw an orchestra playing the Imperial March, He hadn’t realised quite how many instruments, or how many people playing the same kind of instrument, there were in an orchestra. He said he didn’t realise it was that “complicated”. So today, a while after we’d stopped playing FF7, I put on a YouTube video of the very beginning of FF7 for him. Then I put on that same music (“Opening/Bombing Mission”) on my Distant Worlds DVD. The full orchestra is playing it, and clips from the game are shown on a projector screen behind them. Oldest thought this was also “complicated” (quotes because that’s the part I can guarantee are his words). We saw a few more tunes on the DVD before he had to get ready for bed.

Smoke me a kipper, internet: I’ll be back for breakfast.

Frustration

Today, I started writing a to-do list, which was a depressingly large amount of Things I Haven’t Got Around To Yet. I didn’t finish it.

Tonight, I started writing a post about the things on the list, and I haven’t finished that, either.

I managed to do some work on the data-gathering part of my site development, but not on the content-production part, which would bring me closer to a functional (and hopefully revenue-generating) site.

A job came up on the job site that I could actually do, but at hours that would remove me from the weekday family mealtimes, and the weekly evening service. On the other hand, money. At what point do I become less picky? I was asked. At some point I must, and probably soon. Income is kind of necessary.

At the same time, it’s discouraging. I feel like I should have the site up and running and bringing in money by now, and I’m not coping very well with not being able to devote the required brainspace to it.

I could put the site I’ve been developing onto the backburner again, and retool to a subject that requires less concentration, which might be better for sanity. The one that springs to mind, is going to take a bunch of thinking to figure out revenue streams. I have the template in mind, but the content there is work, too.

Decisions, I guess. And what’s the best one for now?

Sleep on it.

Project Update: Putting Some Focus On Content

I tried a new thing this morning. There’s a project I’ve been working on that I’m intending to turn into a new site. I have been gathering data for it, on and off, for a while. Ultimately, the project is pretty ambitious: attempting to organise a rather disorganised field.

What I haven’t really been doing so far, is to turn the gathered data into content. One particular subsection of the data can be presented a particular way, and I’ve spent some time figuring out the presentation there. And after some prompting by my wife, I had a brainwave about how to arrange the presentation of some of the data. I wrote a bit about it in my entry “Solidifying A Site Concept“.

Today, I had a go at turning some of the data into real content. This was swiftly complicated by finding out that the data I’d gathered for the first entry was rather lacking in some areas.

The intent for the other site is to do a post a day, much like I do here, though I think I’d skip weekends there. Didn’t manage the entire post today, but I did find a resource that will help me with a bunch of future posts, and potentially even other types of content that I have planned.

Hoping not to sound too excuse-y, but of course there were points where I was up and around to look after/help/chase kids, and points where one of them was occupying my lap, a state which I haven’t managed to make work with working. Enforced breaks, though, not bad. And concentration got progressively more difficult throughout the afternoon, eventually I needed to go and take a nap.

I think this step towards content was a good one. I imagine that I’m just needing to get into the swing of things, then a post a day at the other place will be achievable. Just keep plugging away on this post, see how long it takes, then move on to the next one. And, though inconvenient, sources of information that don’t attribute well enough, can be a good thing. The research will make my site better than the alternatives.

Solidifying A Site Concept

Part of the purpose of this blog was to chronicle progress made in website development, with there being a particular idea I’m working towards, and other concepts that can be spun out from it. The concept going for the initial site has a lot going for it, there being an overwhelming abundance of material, without a great deal of organisation. In short, you know a bunch of work has been done, but finding out who did it, when, how the results were published, where specifically you would find that documentation… it’s a challenge.

Hence the opportunity to impose order.

Frustratingly, many days I don’t make much progress at all on the technical side of things, most of which ultimately end up under “presentation”. A lot of work has been accomplished under “data gathering”, and plans have been laid to establish links with the wider community in that subject area.

Following recent prompting, I think I’ve made progress on one particular question that had been thus far a bit baffling.

If all this information is out there, and is generally hard-to-find-unless-you-know-where-to-look, then to those who don’t know where to look the information is inaccessible. The question is, “Who is the site aimed at?”

To some extant, the site exists (conceptually) to help anyone interested in the subject, and interested more in primary sources than the latest book speculating on any specific aspect (of which there haven’t been a shortage). But that left the information I was presenting in very dry form. “Here’s this. More information at some other place.” I wasn’t very happy with that at all, though it was a problem I was deferring.

The solution, as it came to me, was to aim young for the site. Then it’s accessible to everyone. I can put a short “Cheat Sheet” on each page, with a short (but hopefully engaging) Who/What/Where/When/Why sort of thing, then have a “Further Reading” section for those who want (or need) to go more in-depth. So aim teen, with functionality for older researchers, but hopefully nothing to prevent younger (who can read) from learning something as well.

After spinning my wheels thinking about extending the functionality of a plugin, I realised that extra functionality doesn’t need to be a Day 1 thing: the modification is rather minor at the end of the day (hence my confidence that I could actually do it), but I need a bit more brain space to do it than I’ve been getting. So if that can be backburned, what can be brought forward to move this thing from theory to “released into the wild” more quickly?

The figuring out of the “Cheat sheet” helped with that, and helped with thinking about how to organise the site. I’ve made some notes, but I haven’t implemented any of it in the test site, yet.

Still, nice getting the feeling that I might get somewhere with this after all.