You might be wondering why it’s taken me so incredibly long to finally blog about Planet Xavier’s long-awaited and long-needed redesign. As usual, the answer is procrastination. It takes effort to write well, y’know. (No, “stream of consciousness” is not good writing, no matter how many periods you stick in it.) I seriously intended to redesign that site since I set it up more than a year ago, and I’ve blogged about my plans numerous times, but my original plans for the site were so complex and wide-ranging that I was never able to get it done, because it was just too easy to put off. The plans originally included excluding certain entries at the push of a button (isn’t at the push of a button), a robust theming system (isn’t robust), automatic school closing information (isn’t automatic), dynamically-updated weather information (doesn’t work), automatic large image resizing (doesn’t work), a blog submission form (didn’t happen), a preferences panel (didn’t happen), automatic inclusion of news items from St. X’s website (isn’t automatic), and more. As I’ve just noted, I had to change my plans somewhat. I essentially pulled a Longhorn, yanking features out so I could get something – anything – out the door by the first quarter of 2010. I could’ve designed and built the pX you see today in about a week, but instead it took me about a year. Apparently doing smaller things to delay bigger – and more important – tasks is the bad form of procrastination. In the time since I first placed the redesign on my to-do list, I’ve incrementally improved and grown pX, made quite a few contributions to Wikipedia, designed a website for my parish from scratch, similarly designed one for my dorm, translated Mozilla Thunderbird for the Summer of Code, upgraded this blog to the latest version of Movable Type, and attended my first quarter at Stanford. Are these really the smaller things? Don’t think so; it all took me plenty of late nights. Though I’ve finally gotten something of a new design up, there are still several major kinks to work out:
- The dates of each entry are consistently 45 hours behind. That’s right, 45. And I have no idea how such a random flaw crept into the system, à la Peter Rother’s little bug. Fortunately, the “last updated” clock is still correct, and new posts are displayed as usual.
- Whenever someone posts an exceptionally wide image, the main page column expands to accomodate it, leaving no room for the sidebar, so the sidebar gets pushed down to the bottom of the page. This shouldn’t happen, and ideally the large images should be automatically resized anyways.
- Alumni blogs have finally been moved to their own separate pages, and a section for the Class of 2004 has been added. (So far only Peter is being syndicated there; I’ve found some others from that class, but I’ve yet to ask their permission first.)
- I can now add news items to the site without having to mess around with HTML in my text editor and upload it to the server. The news section is now handled by Movable Type, and new news is automatically propagated to the Latest Entries listing.
- There’s an “Update” button (for Firefox users only) that lets you update pX yourself. It still takes a few minutes to update, so you can continue browsing to whatever questionable sites you crave and come back to pX when it’s done. I haven’t added any throttling to stop abuse of this feature yet, but I’m hoping that responsible Web users (aka Firefox users) won’t abuse it before I get a chance to add that in.
- The list of syndicated blogs (formerly known as the “Rollcall”) has been moved to a separate Roster page. This move should significantly speed up the front page and stop Google from mistaking pX for a linkfarm. In the future, the Roster will include more information about each blogger (like statistics perhaps), which will make the page that much more useful.