Extended Program Note

[ Posted Tuesday, November 21st, 2023 – 17:01 UTC ]

Since it is a slow news week (pardoning turkeys and whatnot), I thought today would be a good day to bring everyone a site update of sorts. I have started the process of revamping this website, and hope the whole thing will be completed either during the year-end holiday break (very optimistic) or in early 2024 (more realistic). The timeline will depend on how complicated the entire process turns out to be, I should mention.

Also laziness. I have begun vetting website designers but have not contracted with one yet. I am going to try to make this a priority for the upcoming weeks, but then I am a notorious procrastinator so we'll just have to see how that works out. Just to give "full disclosure" on my own shortcomings, as it were.

Anyway, I thought I'd share my overall vision for the update and solicit your feedback. I did all the web design and coding for the site as it stands today, but have only updated it once, so I realize it still is somewhat of a relic from the 2000s. I have decided not to attempt to do the coding this time around, because it is time-consuming (I'd have to get up to date on everything) and complicated. I have saved up for this transition (from your generous donations over the past few years) so I have a budget to have it done professionally this time around. Hopefully, this will help keep it less buggy, at the very least.

So here is what I've been thinking about, and a list of questions for you:


Overall vision

Priority Number One is: "Make it work on phones!" I have to admit I am a geezer who doesn't read content on a phone and thus don't experience what you all do to read these columns on a tiny screen. But I am giving in to the inevitable, so the new site design will be completely phone-friendly. But it will still work on a computer browser as well, rest assured.

Second priority is to keep it simple. Fewer menus, fewer extraneous doodads, just clean and simple all around. Here are the recent columns. Here's how to read one. Here's the archives (with a much better way of finding old articles). You get the picture. Nothing fancy, but something that works well.

I do want to keep the archive intact, of course, so you can see all the old columns. But they'll all be accessible in the new format (not the old).

This will mean stripping away most of the (ancient) "classic blog format" the site now has. I would indeed like to keep as much of the same "look and feel" to the site as possible -- the same basic color scheme, the same grumpy cat photo as a header, the same "parchment" background, and other design elements such as these.

Two big improvements in the "user experience" category will be modern "share" functionality (with links to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), and a much-improved comments function.

There will be a ton of technical upgrades taking place behind the scenes, which (hopefully) will be invisible to you, for the most part. Pretty much everything needs upgrading; it is all 10 years out of date, at least.

One behind-the scenes thing I'll be addressing is confirming new users better. I get a ton of fake logins registered and while my comment spam filter is incredibly robust (I don't think a single spam comment has ever gotten through, in fact), I would prefer to just cut these fake users off during the registration process to avoid the problem entirely. This may cause some problems for valid new users trying to register, so I'm going to be careful about this one, but it is a behind-the-scenes priority for me.

Anyway, that's all I can think of off the top of my head, at least for now. So let's move along to...


Questions for you

First and foremost -- anyone know a reliable-yet-affordable web designer you can recommend? I have not made a decision yet, so I am open to suggestions. Geography doesn't really matter. I am currently looking for someone close by (just to support the local techie economy, really) but it's not a requirement -- since everything's online it doesn't matter where the designer happens to be.

The biggest question I have about the site is a tangent: what other sites (with similar content) do you use and like? In other words, what site could I use as a sort of design template to update mine? If you do suggest a site that you like (so that this site could mimic its basic functionality), please let me know what exactly it is that you like about the site. Is it easy to use? Does it work better than other sites for you? Why? That sort of thing....

What features would you like to see (that I haven't already mentioned)? Better comments, I know that one -- I am going to try to have them editable (for a certain amount of time, at least) since that has been a big source of consternation (for years) for everyone.

But what else? What would make the site work great for you? Like I said, I want to keep it all as simple as possible, but at the same time provide features that users really like, so I'm open to any possibility.

I feel honor-bound to bring this up, but I'm not exactly thrilled about it... would anyone prefer to hear columns as a podcast? Maybe just the Friday columns each week (which would likely appear on Saturdays)? I am reluctant to record columns as podcasts because it certainly would be a lot more work for me, but if people really, really want that sort of thing, I might consider it.

In any case, if you've got any other suggestions or things you really want to see improved, now is the time to let me know. And just to fight my chronic procrastination problem, I promise to keep everyone updated on the progress of the whole project from now on.

I plan on contracting with a web designer right after the Thanksgiving break, so that'll be the first milestone we hit. I apologize in advance for any interruptions in service or other problems the upgrade will undoubtedly cause, too. Let's hope it goes smoothly and seamlessly, but then again bug-free software does not exist, so you'll have to forgive me for any bumps in the road.

Also, a final program note: I will not be available to work tomorrow, so this will be the final column before next Monday.


Have a happy Thanksgiving everyone! May your holiday be filled with warmth and joy all around!

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


21 Comments on “Extended Program Note”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    People do this on phones!? I'd go blind for sure if I did that.

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I may know a good web designer ... I'll do an initial vet for you and then let you know. I'll ask him tomorrow.

    And, just want to wish you lots of luck, Chris, with the whole thing!

    When will the fundraising drive begin? :-)

  3. [3] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:


    Best of luck in the redesign journey. I admit I take the current design and functionality (cranky comments software esp.) for granted and don't really think it feels like the 2000s. But that may be because I don't spend much time that I know of on too many other political blogs with up-to-date 2020s design features.

    1. OK for the phone friendly design, but like you I would never think of doing my politics-blog reading on anything but my trusty desktop setup. I use my phone to make calls, to message, check emails occasionally, and for car GPS. So do keep in mind: if a change is good for phone users, will it degrade the desktop/monitory users' experience?

    2. Other sites I follow regularly are and Mike the Mad Biologist. Neither has a comments section. I'm not sure what you could learn from them in the web design area.

    3. Improved comments section allowing editing would be good. Also a more transparent way of learning to use html features for italics, bold, etc. I know you have this already but I've never been able to decode it.

    4. For your column, consider if there would be a way for you to add inline illustrations, charts, etc. for your own instincts about showing us what you're talking about. I like using visuals to illustrate my writing, but online it's usually a real pain in the butt to accomplish.

    5. I don't care about a podcast feature, myself. Just my age showing, I guess. And you kids get off my lawn!

    Best of luck with the project, and have a happy Thanksgiving.

  4. [4] 
    MyVoice wrote:

    Just a bug I don't know whether you are aware of, Chris. I moved a few years back and lost access to the email address I registered with. While your site allows updating one's email, it is (or was) at the cost of being able to post.
    Once I reverted to my dead email, I could post again, but I can't sent you a message and get a response from you, even when I include my current email address in my note. I haven't tried lately, but that was my experience in 2020.
    Glad to hear the update is happening soon.

  5. [5] 
    MyVoice wrote:

    PS. Please make your site use HTTPS from top to bottom. The Submit Comment request uses HTTP and attempting to use HTTPS fails with a 405 error, which is Method Not Allowed.

  6. [6] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    testing... testing...

  7. [7] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    aha! it is working!

    I tried to comment a while back, but my browser wouldn't even let me... because it wasn't a secure site (that's another thing that will get fixed... it'll be https: not just http:)


  8. [8] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    ok let me get to these...

  9. [9] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    LizM [1] -

    I am told so. By lots of friends who do *everything* on their phones!

    They can see it and read stuff, but they have to do the "pinch with the fingers" thing to zoom it in... that's what will be fixed

    [2] -

    We can talk... let me know... and thanks!


  10. [10] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    John M -

    (1) No. Decidedly not. Because I will continue reading it on a browser too, and "phone-centric" web page design bugs me. So it should look good on both. Never fear.

    (2) I will check the second one out, the first one I already like, but usually only read during election season... they occasionally cite me, how can I not like them? :-)

    (3) Unlike most sites, you can use standard html stuff here. With angle-brackets (the shifted keys for comma and period on the keyboard). Does that help? But I dunno, maybe I can ask for buttons or something. What I want is kind of a plug-and-play comments bit of code, have to see what is on offer...

    anyway, so like [open angle bracket]b[close angle bracket] and then one more tag with the slash to close it should give you bold, if that makes sense.

    (4) are you asking for the comments or for the column? I can do it in the column, it's not too tough. See my Hallowe'en column for an example (pumpkin pix). I used to do it more often (when Obama was in office, I'd do his approval ratings chart once a month) but not so much now...

    (5) Whew! YEah, I'm not totally into the idea, but hey it's what all the new-fangled sites are doing (sigh)


  11. [11] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    MyVoice -

    I'm pretty sure everything is keyed to your original email. I wasn't even aware you could attempt to change it. But I think if you change it, you have to create a new user to do it, that will be keyed to the new email.

    The email thing... that's just me being lazy, I bet. I have been horrible about stuff like that, from approximately COVID until now, sorry. Mea maxima culpa...


  12. [12] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    MyVoice -

    Yeah, that was what tripped me up a while back, the whole https thing... made me angry enough to motivate me to dive in to the whole upgrade...


  13. [13] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    LizM -

    I almost added, at the end, "except for our Canadian readers, who as usual celebrated like a month and a half early!" but then I thought it'd be too snarky!


    Hope you had a good Thanksgiving... y'know, back in October....


  14. [14] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    What's an "iphone? What's a "podcast"??`

  15. [15] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    iph-1 is a very fancy calculator, with logic functions, such as "iph-den"

    a podcast is a receptacle for shelling peas. you cast the empty pods into your podcast.

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I sent you an email - hope I have the updated one! - with the link to my web designer friend and he is going to take a good look at your blog.

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Chris, here are some of the websites Dave Skinner has built and looks after:
    DS Web Design

  19. [19] 
    dsws wrote:

    I like being able to do <i>italics</i> and such-like, so I would prefer to have the interface stay as it is, even though I do sometimes post from my phone.

  20. [20] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I hope making links won't change, now that I've gotten pretty good with it! :-)

  21. [21] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    Have a happy and delicious Thanksgiving, with plenty to be thankful for.

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