Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Revamp Day

We're just weeks away from the Thirteenth Edition of the URI! Zone, an epochal event which signifies that I've needed a better hobby for almost twelve full years now. Although I have rebranded the site every year with charmingly urbane colours and hip lingo (with Ocean Sounds), I've actually done very little under the hood to make this site any more useful or enjoyable (see also, Microsoft Word 97, 98, 2000, 2001, X, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, and 2008). In fact, the last time I actually made major changes to the gears in my site's pants was 2005, when I pretended to be like Florida-Mike and learned about two and a half chapters of PHP before hating it.

So as not to stagnate, I've decided to take a page out of the playbooks of successful world leaders, to achieve the same levels of progressive thinking and flourishing that their countries have seen. Here are some of the features I would like to include in my own "Five Year Plan", although it will probably take much less than five years to accomplish.

No More Frames:
The URI! Zone has used HTML Frames since before the birth of Doobie, for the simple reason that it's a logical and useful navigation technique: put your content in one frame and leave the main menu buttons in another frame so they're always available for clicking. Sometime around 1999, people started hating frames and invented today's standard "really long page blog" format, which is about as ridiculous as replying to an email at the top of the thread and forcing everyone to read from the bottom. Now that the primary focus of the URI! Zone is the news updates, it makes sense to go with a single-page format (even if I philisophically disagree).

Streamlining Content:
Last year, I removed the Olio section, and next to go will be the Archive section. Honestly, when was the last time you cared that I hosted a gallery of fantasy thumbnail images in 1997, or read my reviews of N64 games from 2001? I'll also get rid of the eight million high school essays I wrote, because while I love the added search engine traffic, I hate that my site is being used for the dumbing down of plagiarizing snotnoses.

Post Tagging:
Post tagging is one of the few good things to come out of the blogging craze, because you can never have too many forms of categorization. Haven't you ever wanted to look at all the posts where I make fun of NASA at the same time, or wondered how many Friday Fragments posts I've made?

Database-Driven Posts:
I still write out every single post by hand, in a homebrewed mix of Javascript and HTML because I am proud and hate borrowing code from other people. However, switching to a blogging engine like Wordpress would reduce the daily maintenance (giving me time to make posts 12 times as long) and improve the Comments section. With a database-driven solution, it would be easier for Kelley to fix all the mistakes in his comments with a big fat EDIT button. It would also allow me to add a search engine for old posts so you could immediately tell when I am merely repeating a post that I originally made two years ago (I never do that though -- I wait at least three years).

RSS Feed:
A side effect of putting all the posts in a database would be having a chic RSS feed for Rob, which would broadcast my daily updates to the "blogosphere", artificially increasing my traffic at zero cost to me.

JSPs and Servlets:
Working with databases via PHP is more painful than listening to TATU sing the national anthem, so it's only natural that I would employ the very technologies that I use at work every day.

A New Site Host:
The main deterrent to new features has been my webhost, which generally works fine until they try to upgrade something, then breaks down miserably, leaving some outsourced Indian to provide useless tech support by email. If I do anything with databases and JSPs, I would want to move to another host with a better uptime record (which is not just a go-lucky LP from 1957). So, if you know any hosts that run Tomcat and support servlets for less than $107 a year, let me know!

Now it's your turn. What features do YOU think are missing from the URI! Zone?

MLK was a Republican
Saucy intruder whistles for homeowner
Police say UFO was just the Moon

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