Aug 282008

We’ve pulled in another skin update, which increases the size of our monospace in-line code and variable text, and also fixes problems with failing to inherit boldface on inline code (such as in definition lists). This should improve readability further.

In addition, code sample download links should no longer be broken. And the problem with the file I/O code snippet article link being broken has been corrected through a redirect.

 Posted by at 2:48 PM
Aug 272008

The last round of site changes went up last night, and today I’ve committed another, smaller change that will fix some legibility problems with code and other monospace text blocks. You can watch for when that change goes live by watching bug 452515.

It’s been pointed out to me that links to downloadable code samples are generally broken. I’ve filed a bug with IT to get that looked into; my guess is a rewrite rule needs to be added to the server to fix it, but I’m not certain. I’ll let the server gurus figure that one out.

I know some folks are still dissatisfied with the new skin. Complaints range from “I wish it were sans-serif” to “I don’t like drop-down menus, give me back the sidebar” to “ugh I hate it and I hate you for foisting this on me.”

Let’s take a look at these.

The sans-serif thing was a conscious decision. By using a serif font for the body text of the articles, and monospace fonts for code, variables, and so forth, the code bits stand out better from the body text. This is something that some people feel very passionate about, one way or the other, however, this isn’t something that’s likely to be changed soon (we have bigger fish to fry). If people still hate it in a couple of months, then we’ll look at it again.

I recognize the complaints about the drop-down menus as valid, at least to an extent. I actually prefer a sidebar or other always-visible interface myself when editing a wiki. However, after lengthy discussions with a lot of people before the skinn design started, we all agreed to go with the drop-down menus for one simple reason: to maximize the amount of actual content that the reader can view at once. Our goal is to present information cleanly and conveniently, and having a lot of “stuff” in the window doesn’t really achieve that goal.

That having been said, I still see validity in this complaint, especially for people who spend most of their time editing rather than reading the content, and it’s something I’m going to look at in the future, once other stuff has settled down. Hopefully sooner rather than later. I’m not going to promise anything — neither what exactly we’ll do nor when it will be done — but I will say that I intend to find a solution.

The last point I’d like to make is this: We put the new skin out there through several revisions starting in April. First with mockups, then with screenshots, and then, finally, an actual testable site for people to play with. I only got a handful of complaints during that time. It would have been much more helpful to have gotten some of the very good feedback I’m getting now back when it would have been easier to do something about it.

I know folks are busy, and a lot of people were very preoccupied with Firefox 3 at the time, but I’ve seen several comments from people basically saying that I drove this design through without consulting anyone, and am unwilling to take suggestions, and I feel compelled to point out I made every effort to ensure that everyone had ample opportunity to have their say and to help guide the design.

Anyway, having said that, I do want to continue to collect suggestions and requests, and we’ll see what we can do with them!

 Posted by at 7:25 PM
Aug 262008

Repeat after me: Don’t discuss politics with friends.

I have far too many left-leaning friends with whom I have extremely strong differences of opinion to engage in political debate with them. They tend to all come at me at once, so that I feel like I’m being ganged up on by them and their (from my perspective) ill-informed views.

It’s not conducive to legitimate discussion, and I always wind up offended and frustrated, which usually results in me storming off in a huff.

Here are a few examples of ways good friends can force me to withdraw from a political discussion in sheer exasperation:

  1. Repeatedly call our leaders lunatics or idiots without backing it up with any kind of logical argument.  Me, if I don’t like someone, I just say that.  Just because I disagree with someone doesn’t make them an idiot or a lunatic.
  2. Insist that someone’s motives are entirely driven by greed, malice, or sadism, despite a total lack of evidence that such is the case.  If you honestly think that, you’d better have a reason for it, otherwise shut the hell up.  Just because you don’t understand why someone does something doesn’t mean their motives are impure.
  3. Argue that our country shouldn’t defend its interests, no matter where in the world those interests lie.  Isolationism doesn’t work, and never has.

I think it’s a low form of debate to use such arguments as 1-3, and I think people that don’t think we should defend our interests around the world are just stupid. I’m fine with arguing degrees to which things should be done, but to flat-out argue against it is insane.

 Posted by at 11:20 PM
Aug 262008

Work is ongoing on improving things. MindTouch has fixed the bug that was damaging links to tag list pages, and we should be picking up that change today or tomorrow; I’ve filed a bug with IT to get it pulled in.

Somehow the footer link to the copyright page got broken again, so I’ve fixed that once again. While I was at it, I fixed the contrast on pre, tt, and code blocks, and switched to Courier New as the font for monospace text instead of Andale Mono. Turns out that on the Mac, Andale Mono in boldface is a different width than when it’s not bold, which was making a mess of certain pages.

As far as I’m aware, the redirect issues have all been fixed, except possibly a few that will need some hand-tuning as they’re discovered.

The problems with errors in certain XUL reference pages is caused by some broken script code in the pages themselves. I have a solution, but am trying to find a more elegant one before I rework those pages. Please be patient with me.

Things are looking good, and hopefully we’ve addressed the majority of complaints at this point.

In related news, we plan to make MDC use HTTPS so that user passwords are handled securely. I don’t know exactly when this will happen, but it should be pretty soon. I’ll keep you posted.

 Posted by at 2:54 PM
Aug 232008

Since Friday afternoon, I’ve been dabbling a bit with MDC. We deployed a minor skin update that causes the Copyright link in the footer to work.

Then I got bolder, and installed a clone of MDC on a VM at home, so that I could do some more serious work.

Awaiting deployment is a new update that includes updated Italian and Japanese localizations of the skin (I didn’t do these myself, of course). In addition, the “About MDC” link in the page footer now directs to the current language’s MDC project page. On top of that, the site now offers an alternate stylesheet that uses black text, slightly darker colors for the links, and sans-serif fonts.

The alternate style sheet is something of a test, since as things stand you’d have to choose it every time you go to a page. If people vastly prefer it, I’ll consider making it the default (even though I personally like the look of the current default style sheet better, this isn’t about me).

You can get a peek at what the alternate stylesheet looks like.

I’ll post again when this update is actually deployed. I don’t expect it to happen until Monday at the earliest.

 Posted by at 5:41 PM
Aug 222008

I’ve added <dd> and <dt> to the Styles menu, which will help when editing topic main pages, among other things.

Also, the licenses link in the page footer now goes to Project:Copyrights, which actually has the copyright information on it.

Most but not all of the redirect problems have apparently been fixed, and the rest are actively being worked on. Hopefully that headache will be behind us soon!

The localized skin files are all in place but aren’t being used for some reason. I’ve sent email to MindTouch and the skin’s designer to ask for advice on what might be causing that problem.

I’ve not yet fixed the About MDC link, but will be working on that soon.

I have a Deki VM set up here at home; my plan is to clone MDC onto it over the next few days so that I can do my work on that, thereby allowing myself to test changes before unleashing them out on the world.

So things are improving each day. I’m pretty pleased with how things are going. Nobody’s threatened me with bodily harm, and as everyone knows, that’s a sure sign of a successful launch!

 Posted by at 2:16 PM
Aug 212008

Yesterday, I said I’d blog again with information about my priorities for things I’d like to see MindTouch fix or implement in Deki. I’ve written up a living priority list (“living” meaning that I continue to update it as ideas occur to me). There are presently 13 items on the list, arranged in order of importance. MindTouch is aware of this list, and hopefully will work on some of this stuff once their impending Kilen Woods release is done.

The transition has generally gone smoothly. The few complaints have been relatively minor, except for the problem with a number of redirects not working correctly, which is being worked on. Some of the broken redirects have already been fixed, but there are some that still don’t work.

I’ll continue to post as more things get resolved.

 Posted by at 10:56 PM