Author Topic: I'm Back, And Some Website Updates  (Read 5409 times)

Offline BlackBox

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« on: March 21, 2010, 03:11:28 PM »
Hey everyone,

I know this may come as a huge surprise but I have decided to become more active in OPU again. Some of you may have seen some of my posts and my presence on IRC, one of those posts being a large release of the code to a bunch of projects including the OP2mapper.

I no longer have the free time I need to be able to work on programming-related projects much anymore (this may change in the next few months but we will have to see). That being said, I do want to continue to improve the website, servers, etc (and these are tasks that I feel that I have the time to accomplish), some changes have been implemented already, for example, DNS fixes that were causing some people to not be able to access the forums or IRC.

Because of all this, I want to ask the community a few questions:

First of all, I would be interested to know how many people would be opposed to moving to more up to date forum software. Currently we use an ancient version of Invision Power Board (before it became a paid product). You also may have noticed that there have been an infusion of spambots onto the forums and this is partly due to the fact that we are using ancient software that has certain security vulnerabilities associated with it.

I personally do not consider it worth our while to expend the effort needed to fix this software, but I want to leave the final decision to update the forums to the community, as there has been resistance in the past to move to different software. New software would enable us to implement more useful features as well (for example, we cannot have subforums more than one level deep which has been responsible for some of the clutter on the main page).

This is also part of another personal goal of mine: unify the OPU website and forums and make it look nicer and more usable. Right now I don't see the website as being the greatest front to our existence (it's kind of bare and not used for a whole lot). Additionally, in the past, we had the wiki and the gallery: the wiki turned into a disorganized mess and eventually ended up being made read-only; at this point the software it uses is no longer compatible with our server environment and no one has taken the time to fix it because it became such a giant mess. The gallery on the other hand kind of fell into disarray (it is still actively used by some people, but one may notice that there are lots of spam comments posted to it).

I would like to combine these things together; perhaps by making the main site a wiki, or at least in some way editable by certain users (another ambition of mine includes allowing some way for people to post pictures as well as new maps, missions, OP2 mods, whatever to a personal section of the website and have these things show up in some directory on the site).

What does everyone think? Post your input, comments, suggestions, etc.

Offline TH300

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« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2010, 03:41:28 PM »
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Because of all this, I want to ask the community a few questions:

First of all, I would be interested to know how many people would be opposed to moving to more up to date forum software.
I encourage such a move. The current software has obvious shortcomings.

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This is also part of another personal goal of mine: unify the OPU website and forums and make it look nicer and more usable. Right now I don't see the website as being the greatest front to our existence (it's kind of bare and not used for a whole lot).
The most important stuff is on the site. Everything newer than ~2 years is on the forum. Yea, currently the forum is a more useful source for information than the site. Thats not how it should be.

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[...] the wiki turned into a disorganized mess [...]
The wiki was a good idea, just should have been more organized.

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The gallery on the other hand kind of fell into disarray (it is still actively used by some people, but one may notice that there are lots of spam comments posted to it).
Yea, some people are still using it and there are probably lots of images on it that have been linked to from the forum. We'll have to keep it (in some form, at least).

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I would like to combine these things together; perhaps by making the main site a wiki, or at least in some way editable by certain users (another ambition of mine includes allowing some way for people to post pictures as well as new maps, missions, OP2 mods, whatever to a personal section of the website and have these things show up in some directory on the site).
I like this idea. The site ought to be the place where people can find everything (everything of general interest). We need information about all community-made maps/mods on the site (probably even info about the original maps). It should all be on one page, don't have visitors navigate through a hierarchy of user-pages. (user pages could still be used for detailed info on something, but I'm not sure there.
We need howtos/tutorials on the site: coding tutorials, tileset creation tutorials, etc.
We should probably even put info about all projects on the site.
On the other hand, though, lets not put everything on the site. Screenshots will be better placed somewhere else (in the gallery, for example).

Thats a lot already and I certainly missed something, but thats what I think we need: lots more info on the site. Have it all centralized at that place.

I'm willing to help. I won't have the time to help much, but if enough people help, we can do it.
« Last Edit: March 21, 2010, 03:54:59 PM by TH300 »

Offline Hooman

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« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2010, 09:58:06 PM »
Something definately needs to be done about the spambots. There are also certain things about the forum that occasionally need to be fixed, and it's often not clear or easy how to fix them.

I definately agree that the main web site is not quite what it should be. I would like to update the downloads section so it has more current stuff. I'd also like to replace the .rar files with self extracting archives. It'd also be nice to move away from the PHP for common headers and footers, and perhaps just use some CSS or a small bit of copy/paste. I'd also like to not use such a narrow fixed width format. And of course, a lot of useful information should find it's way on there. Having to dig through the forums or the wiki for that stuff just doesn't seem right.

It'd be cool if having a certain number of posts automatically gave you web space for your own projects. Although, that could easily be abused.

The idea of making the main site a wiki makes me nervous. There should perhaps be wider editing abilities than currently. Just perhaps not as wide as the wiki had. I don't want the main site to turn into a dumping grounds like the wiki became. Just because we can use a piece of software doesn't always mean we should.
 

Offline CK9

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« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2010, 11:28:56 PM »
Quote
Because of all this, I want to ask the community a few questions:

First of all, I would be interested to know how many people would be opposed to moving to more up to date forum software.

let's get the hell off this old rust bucket and into a system that we can work with!!!

Quote
This is also part of another personal goal of mine: unify the OPU website and forums and make it look nicer and more usable. Right now I don't see the website as being the greatest front to our existence (it's kind of bare and not used for a whole lot).

I personally think we should have a single-page site that links to the forums and has downloads listed on it under the forum link.

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[...] the wiki turned into a disorganized mess [...]

A wiki is a nice idea if planning is done first.  Opening it up ad telling people to add to it will only lead to a mess.  If we re-use it, let's take a moment to plan everything out first.

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The gallery on the other hand kind of fell into disarray (it is still actively used by some people, but one may notice that there are lots of spam comments posted to it).

...oh yea...I forgot about that...One thing we can do to prevent spam posting is have an input other than text that requires a specific input.  recaptcha works too if we can use it.

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I would like to combine these things together; perhaps by making the main site a wiki, or at least in some way editable by certain users (another ambition of mine includes allowing some way for people to post pictures as well as new maps, missions, OP2 mods, whatever to a personal section of the website and have these things show up in some directory on the site).

It could work...but again, let's plan it all out before starting any work on it!

(and yes, I stole TH's post format :P)
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Offline ducktape

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« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2010, 12:30:52 AM »
As far as the forum goes, I say go ahead with the upgrade. Something new could only make us look more active and attractive to newcomers.

I support the main page as a wiki concept. Perhaps separate the main page into two columns, the left side with sections for community involvement (forum links, IRC, etc.) and game information. The right side with sections for development stuff (SirBombers coding tutorials would be a great start), files (maps/mods/tools), etc.

Offline TH300

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« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2010, 04:36:08 AM »
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I'd also like to replace the .rar files with self extracting archives.
ehm? I don't like the rar files, but self extracting archives are not any better imo: They add an extractor to every package, meaning unnecessary overhead. They're also bound to a certain os (maybe even to a certain version of windows). Lets just use some format that everyone can extract without downloading extra software. If it has to be zip, so be it.

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I'd also like to not use such a narrow fixed width format.
Agreed: what we really need is a site which displays fine in small browser windows but also uses the available space in bigger browser windows.

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It'd be cool if having a certain number of posts automatically gave you web space for your own projects. Although, that could easily be abused.
Having own projects is not directly related to the number of own posts. Would probably be easier to just give it to people who ask upon approval.

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The idea of making the main site a wiki makes me nervous. There should perhaps be wider editing abilities than currently. Just perhaps not as wide as the wiki had. I don't want the main site to turn into a dumping grounds like the wiki became. Just because we can use a piece of software doesn't always mean we should.
A wiki is just a piece of software. What matters is how we use it. But I guess, there is more suitable software for our purposes.
We can either give editing abilities only to a few people who know what they're doing or to more people and also give them rules for editing.

Something else, I forgot: if we change the forum software, please PLEASE convert the skin to work with the new software.


Edit: Added response to
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I support the main page as a wiki concept. Perhaps separate the main page into two columns, the left side with sections for community involvement (forum links, IRC, etc.) and game information. The right side with sections for development stuff (SirBombers coding tutorials would be a great start), files (maps/mods/tools), etc.
That will leave people wondering whether they should search on the right or on the left side. We need something clear: ONE navigation-bar/menu probably on the left side, one contents area, one header, one footer. In the contents area, only display what the visitor just clicked. Trying to put everything on the main page may confuse people. I suggest, that we put onto the main page only a short introduction and the news.
« Last Edit: March 22, 2010, 04:51:16 AM by TH300 »

Offline ducktape

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« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2010, 05:16:36 AM »
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That will leave people wondering whether they should search on the right or on the left side. We need something clear: ONE navigation-bar/menu probably on the left side, one contents area, one header, one footer. In the contents area, only display what the visitor just clicked. Trying to put everything on the main page may confuse people. I suggest, that we put onto the main page only a short introduction and the news.
If done right I reckon it would reduce the amount people need to search for things. The layout just has to have each section planned out. A cheap open source project I used to do a little mapping for had a similar layout. The project is mainly dead, but you can get an idea of what I'm talking about here:
http://209.168.213.109/wiki/index.php/Main_Page
Community/player/general game info boxes to the left, coding/mapping/development/files to the right.

If people don't like it, oh well, no big fuss, just my two cents worth. As long as we get the wiki fixed. :P

Offline TH300

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« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2010, 07:06:56 AM »
What you are suggesting is a commonly used concept for wikis. It is probably the best solution for wikis, because the most common wiki-software (mediawiki) has limitations on the page-layout (i.e. no real navigation menu on the left side). But we're not bound to those limitations. We can have a fully fledged navigation on the left. This will allow us to devote the main page merely to news and a short introduction. In contrast, having news and introduction AND direct links to everything on the main page would be too much.

And, I see some confusion arising about wiki-pages: using wiki-software doesn't force us to use a certain layout. Using default layout is just easier, but we can still change it to whatever we want. And thats what I suggest if we use wiki software. Our site should not look like a wiki.
« Last Edit: March 22, 2010, 07:08:19 AM by TH300 »

Offline AmIMeYet

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« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2010, 08:02:16 AM »
BlackBox, I'm all for upgrading the forum, although I won't be able to help finance it.

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move away from the PHP for common headers and footers
Aren't PHP includes the preferred way for templating websites? Why would you want to move away from that?

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The idea of making the main site a wiki makes me nervous. There should perhaps be wider editing abilities than currently. Just perhaps not as wide as the wiki had. I don't want the main site to turn into a dumping grounds like the wiki became.
This is where moderation comes in. Just let everyone edit what they want and put that on a moderated update queue, just like the (current?) SVN update method.

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A wiki is a nice idea if planning is done first. Opening it up ad telling people to add to it will only lead to a mess. If we re-use it, let's take a moment to plan everything out first.
Yeah, that's exactly what my plan was for NewWiki. Just didn't turn out so great either. It might be a good idea to look at NewWiki for reference, though..

Also, might be fun to prototype this new website idea in Ruby, using Sinatra. </fanboy>
I've been working a lot with that lately, and it's remarkably easy and fast to work with.

Offline TH300

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« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2010, 01:40:17 PM »
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although I won't be able to help finance it.
I suggest that we move to a free forum software. No need that anyone spends even more money for this community.
 

Offline Sirbomber

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« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2010, 02:36:31 PM »
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I suggest that we move to a free forum software.
We're already using free software... Sorta.
Upgrading to the new software would cost money, but would also be compatible with our current forum.  Switching to new, free forum software means we lose all existing posts, members, etc.

I think?
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Offline Arklon

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« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2010, 02:51:03 PM »
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Quote
I suggest that we move to a free forum software.
We're already using free software... Sorta.
Upgrading to the new software would cost money, but would also be compatible with our current forum.  Switching to new, free forum software means we lose all existing posts, members, etc.

I think?
Well, some clever mySQL queries could transfer users/posts.

Offline CK9

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« Reply #12 on: March 22, 2010, 08:02:44 PM »
well...with direct access to the mysql you could change the existing databases to match the format required by the new software...at least I think I did something like that...
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Offline TH300

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« Reply #13 on: March 23, 2010, 12:27:35 AM »
Yea, loosing all posts or anything else is not an option.

My idea was to move to phpbb3 (which is apparently more reliable than the previous versions years ago). People already wrote converters for that, e.g. this one. Converting may still be a challenging process since the existing converters are all in some way lacking and modifying them for our purposes might be necessary.

Offline Sl0vi

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« Reply #14 on: March 23, 2010, 05:07:29 PM »
the main site could definetly use some work. The html encoding on it is broken too.
!!!YAY!!!

Offline BlackBox

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« Reply #15 on: March 23, 2010, 06:28:43 PM »
I'll respond to each of these questions/comments as they come:

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The wiki was a good idea, just should have been more organized.

I agree. Planning and perhaps setting up some kind of organizational structure on the wiki to fill in would prevent a lot of the disasters that plagued the old wiki.

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The idea of making the main site a wiki makes me nervous. There should perhaps be wider editing abilities than currently. Just perhaps not as wide as the wiki had. I don't want the main site to turn into a dumping grounds like the wiki became. Just because we can use a piece of software doesn't always mean we should.

I guess I kinda mean "wiki" as a tongue-in-cheek thing. I think some kind of editable-from-the-web system is better than the current system. I also don't think that every single person who uses OPU should necessarily be able to edit on the wiki right away either (this was probably part of the reason it turned into a mess, too many people doing random edits and adding pages). I think a good CMS might be a better idea than a wiki (never was much for the idea of the wiki being the main site). In addition this goes with a point I will make below.

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(in regards to the gallery) Yea, some people are still using it and there are probably lots of images on it that have been linked to from the forum. We'll have to keep it (in some form, at least).

I think it would be nice to integrate it into the main site as much as possible. Having a completely separate location for it kinda limits its use (people tend to not notice it so much) in my opinion. Plus it would be a possible source of content for the site (imagine some kind of "latest screenshots" section visible from the home page or something).

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I would like to update the downloads section so it has more current stuff. I'd also like to replace the .rar files with self extracting archives.

Good idea in my opinion, though am not sure about the self extracting archives. I think offering the game in multiple formats (with and without the SFX) is probably a good idea (the SFX is nice for people on windows since it can set up shortcuts and all those nice things in the start menu). Creating a download without the SFX is rather trivial (the SFX is usually just the executable binary with some compressed package tacked on the end).

The SFX I used in the past was an installer created with Nullsoft Install System (it's open source and runs on multiple platforms).

Another idea I had related to this, was some kind of automatic download/update program (perhaps a launcher you could run for Outpost2.exe that would check with the OPU website, and see if there are updates to any of the game files, or perhaps new maps that have been released; in addition, a possible nice feature might be some kind of 'repair' mode that checksums each file and downloads replacements for those files that don't match - this could help solve some of the "host and client checksums do not match" woes when people are using modified game files). This could perhaps also be used to install related tools or new mods (like the mapper and new versions of the netfix for example).

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Something else, I forgot: if we change the forum software, please PLEASE convert the skin to work with the new software.

Absolutely agreed. It might not look exactly like IPB due to a different forum software supporting different features but I would like it to look close. I think it gives the forum a unique feel.

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I suggest that we move to a free forum software. No need that anyone spends even more money for this community.

Unless someone wants to buy me a license for IP.Board 3.x or similar it will most likely be free software (I am probably going to go with SMF as I have worked a lot with it and it would be easy to integrate with the main site, which is something I'd like to do. Have one login for everything, keeps things simple. Failing that I would go with phpBB). I would like to stay away from any non PHP-based solutions (this goes for both the site and forum) for that reason as well.

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Yea, loosing all posts or anything else is not an option.

Also agreed. If there are not prewritten converters for whatever software is used (or if these converters fail to meet my expectations; e.g. certain stuff doesn't get transferred) I will write my own, honestly it shouldn't be too terribly difficult to write my own to do what I want. I might have to do that anyway as there have been a few modifications to the software we use and fields added to many of the tables in the database, etc.

While I am on this subject, custom mods that we have on IPB will no longer exist (I will find or write some replacement for the shoutbox as it gets used heavily, the other mods such as IBstore and such I'm not sure that we need to reincarnate those in the new forum software). As mentioned already I will port the New Terra theme to the new system. (I am not interested in porting the other themes, most people I don't think even use them and many of them are broken. It also creates a maintenance nightmare since any theme mods have to be done for every theme that the forum has installed, currently we have way too many).

------

In any case, I will probably start working on setting up new forum software and transferring posts, etc. I will make certain that this gets tested plenty well before any rollout of the forum software occurs.

I will then start working on replacing the main site with something a bit nicer and probably seeing if I can integrate the gallery directly into the site as well.

If you have any other questions or comments please let me know.
-- BlackBox

Offline Sirbomber

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« Reply #16 on: March 23, 2010, 06:37:42 PM »
New forum software...  This should be interesting.

Make sure to keep a copy of the current forum around and let us test out the new software for a week so we can fix any problems that arise.
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Offline Hooman

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« Reply #17 on: March 23, 2010, 10:24:52 PM »
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I would like to stay away from any non PHP-based solutions (this goes for both the site and forum) for that reason as well.

What reason? ... Money?


I kind of like that latest screen shots idea. Although, it does perhaps leave the main page open to vandalism. But then, no more so than the news forum does currently, and that hasn't been a problem.


As for the self extracting archives, I was thinking just that, not a full installer. I know some self extracting archives can be opened and processed like normal archives without using the built in decompressor. I think WinRAR might actually support doing that. I was also thinking of looking into 7-zip.


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the main site could definetly use some work. The html encoding on it is broken too.
What do you mean the html encoding is broken? The last time I checked, all the pages validated as xhtml-strict. Do you mean broken links? I'm not aware of any that are currently broken. Or is there some garbled text somewhere? I'm not sure what you're getting at there.

 

Offline BlackBox

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« Reply #18 on: March 23, 2010, 10:44:41 PM »
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What reason? ... Money?
Nah, it was for the "integration with main site" thing, using other languages makes it harder to do. Plus if it wasn't something common like php / perl I would have to change some webserver config as well so I could use them as CGI scripts.

I have set up a test forum for the mods/admins to test and work out any issues there might be before we roll it to the main server.

Offline Sl0vi

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« Reply #19 on: March 24, 2010, 02:26:50 AM »
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the main site could definetly use some work. The html encoding on it is broken too.
What do you mean the html encoding is broken? The last time I checked, all the pages validated as xhtml-strict. Do you mean broken links? I'm not aware of any that are currently broken. Or is there some garbled text somewhere? I'm not sure what you're getting at there.
Sorry, I think I meant character encoding. Some of the text in the news section appears garbled. Looking at the source, the site seems to be encoding already encoded text.

The headline for this thread gets encoded to:
I&amp;#39;m Back, And Some Website Updates
!!!YAY!!!

Offline TH300

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« Reply #20 on: March 24, 2010, 04:37:56 AM »
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Another idea I had related to this, was some kind of automatic download/update program (perhaps a launcher you could run for Outpost2.exe that would check with the OPU website, and see if there are updates to any of the game files, or perhaps new maps that have been released; in addition, a possible nice feature might be some kind of 'repair' mode that checksums each file and downloads replacements for those files that don't match - this could help solve some of the "host and client checksums do not match" woes when people are using modified game files). This could perhaps also be used to install related tools or new mods (like the mapper and new versions of the netfix for example).
I personally dislike too much automation. Gives me a feeling of having no control. If you want to do this (I understand, that it would make life easier for some people), please make sure that it doesn't overwrite anything without prior asking. Also, make it ask before connecting to any server - I don't want anyone tracking when I play op2. Also, don't make an installer that downloads everything while installing, because that will be useless when the server is unreachable for whatever reason.

Offline RipperKhan

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« Reply #21 on: April 03, 2010, 02:41:18 PM »
u should use a cms for the site like mambo would help make the site better and make the front page more usable :P
« Last Edit: April 03, 2010, 02:41:42 PM by RipperKhan »

Offline Mez

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« Reply #22 on: May 11, 2010, 06:15:38 AM »
TOPIC SPLIT

The non-related topic about Combine Cruiser returning which hijacked this topic is now in the Introductions section: http://forum.outpostuniverse.net/index.php?showtopic=4976
« Last Edit: May 11, 2010, 06:15:53 AM by Mez »