The comments table has been repopulated! I’m currently working on restoring their hierarchy. For ease, I’m working backwards, from the newest to the oldest posts. Please bear with any site instability/sluggishness you might encounter. Cheers! ☺

Site Changes

Written by Raymond Santos Estrella on Sunday, 13 April 2014. Posted in 2014

And the Upcoming Hiatus

Site Changes

It looks like most of the site’s content is up and ready. After more than a month of weekends of work, I think I’ve more than earned a nice breather. But before all that, here’s a recap to the changes:

Updated Code

A ton of effort has gone into updating the CMS code. While the site’s CMS is based on Joomla and ZOO, I’ve had to fork their source code and do some heavy modifications since they base code just wasn’t cutting it for my own purposes. This includes changes in the underlying PHP, Javascript, and CSS3 code. While it sometimes feels like an inelegant kludge, I’m pretty proud of the changes. The resulting CMS is much, much more streamlined and faster. Sure, I’ve fattened up the server-side code in some places but to compensate, I’ve jettisoned a lot of useless functionality that I really don’t need (enhanced RSS controls, banner ad controls, native content editors, etc.). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is the part of programming that I dislike the most and I’m glad that a herculean endeavor such as this only comes around once every few years.

Design

While the site’s design hasn’t changed that much from a visual standpoint, I’ve tweaked a lot of CSS and PHP to get both optimum file size and better use of white space. Loyal readers will know how much I love the judicious use of white space since it makes for a better reading experience. Hopefully, all the trial and error makes the site easier on your eyes.

More interestingly, I’ve also tweaked the master template for mobile users. The site can now run on all but the most basic smartphone’s browser without nary a hiccup in readability and functionality. Go ahead and check with your phone. I’ll wait. Neat, huh?

Open Graph

I’ve finally embraced Open Graph. I have to admit that I’ve been on the fence with implementing it for a while now. I’ve known about the inherent benefits (thanks to Google Analytics and Facebook Insights data) but I’ve never found any PHP proper code as a foundation on which I can implement it on the site properly. A few weeks back, I finally bit the bullet and decided to code it from scratch. Reading up on Open Graph and refreshing my PHP knowledge took a weekend and coding took about 3 non-sequential days. The result? The site now properly works with Open Graph and viewing the debugger reveals proper og data being parsed for most of the data available on the site. Not everything is fully implemented, though. There are some errant parts of the site (ie categories, some landing pages) that don’t quite want to cooperate. I know it’s possible site files or provide override rules in PHP for these specific pages but I’d rather not do that at this point. That means several more man hours of coding, testing, and debugging for what is essentially a hack, I’d rather search for an elegant solution than smash my way through the whole og implementation project. I’ll file this last thing away for my to-do list.

SEO

I’ve never really been one to optimize for search engines. I loathe having to fill up a meta description field by trying to paraphrase my hard-written content into a few sentences. It pains me to find proper tags for an article’s meta keywords entry. Ugh.

But then, there’s microdata, RFDa, and microformats providing for richer metadata beyond the contents of the <head> tags.

I’ve implemented some basic tagging from the main article and movie microdata schemas. I’m still working on how to better implement the in-depth, richer parts of those schemas but that will require a lot more elbow work since it involves not just coding the microdata <span> tags into the content, but also developing a more streamlined way of implementation. Again, this goes into the to-do list.

Content

After an audit of the initial contents of the site and my own backups, a lot of content didn’t quite the transition to the new site. When I tried to restore them, I noticed that the code wasn’t optimized for the capabilities of the new site. I couldn’t, in good conscience, post them without taking advantage of the new functionality (modal previews, microdata, OG data, author/director/actor pages, Javascript calls, etc.). That took quite some time. Some effort was alleviated by automated worker processes but the rest (microdata, OG) had to be hand-tweaked by hand. Augh!1

In any case, I’ve reviewed all the available blog entries and they’re safely within the database, text, links, metadata, everything is in there. Almost all the missing reviews have also been reintroduced though I can’t retrieve the old number of FB likes and tweets they originally received due to a change in the URLs.2 I’ve tried 403 redirects but those only work for transferring browser views but don’t actually carry over to social media scores. Oh well.

Comments

One of the best parts of writing is, of course, appreciation. The success of the old site was largely due to the number of readers and visitors it had. This was best exemplified in the amount of comments that posts received and the level of debate certain topics received. Unfortunately, those comments didn’t quite make the move to the new site.

The old site had a lot of comments. Before the transition, the comments database table was approaching 16,000 validated comments. I thought the backup had gone fine but now that I’ve checked, I’ve only got around 14k rows of comments. I’m not entirely sure what went wrong, it all seems like voodoo. The old database is gone and with it, all that content. No use crying over spilled milk, I guess.

I’m trying to reintroduce what records I do have though even that has turned out to be a challenge. I can’t do a straight restore since the comments database table schema has changed. The comments now point to inexistent or incorrect articles. That can be almost easily be fixed by a Perl search-replace script. The real problem is the corrupted character data that resulted from the backup and restore. It seems that there’s an systemic incompatibility in character sets between the old and new tables that can’t be easily reconciled. When I first sought out to do this, I had thought that the sets would overlap and that old data would remap properly to the new tables. That was a big blunder on my part. Now I have the problem of fixing corrupted character data (specifically, non-alphanumeric characters). I don’t even want to get into how terribly painstaking that work is. Suffice it to say, this is the most time intensive part of the whole site migration. Work on the comments is going slowly.

The Future

To recap, there’s still some logic code and template design that I have to work on, a few more movie and episode reviews to update and re-upload. Then there’s the comments database table to repopulate. Just the thought of the time and effort involved makes me feel tired already. In any case, I hope to finish all the work near the end of April and move on to some rigorous testing and fine-tuning afterward. When all that’s done, I can hopefully work on some new posts that I’ve working on which I’ll detail shortly.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here. While I’ve been working on the site all this time, it’s mostly on the backend (code, database stuff) that you can’t really see. I have begun writing on some new posts but have had to stall working on them due when I noticed the dire state of the site content. I don’t really like previewing things I’m writing about. However, seeing as I’m unsure when they’ll be finished, I’ll make an exception:

  • Bitcoin Primer - Bitcoin’s been in the news quite a bit since the latter part of last year. This’ll be an in-depth but simple look into cryptocurrencies in general, their history, Satoshi Nakamoto’s original paper on cryptocurrencies, generating hash values, the peer-to-peer block chain, the Bitcoin protocol, past and possible attacks on cryptocurrency legitimacy, and the economics of Bitcoins. I’m already done with all the research and I’m almost done with the writing. It’s gotten so lengthy, however, that this might be a two- or three-part post. I promise, it’ll be awesome with tables, charts, and graphics. It’ll be so simple a high school kid could understand it.
  • Fermat’s Last Theorem - I read about Andrew Wiles’ proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem quite a while ago and never really put any effort into understanding how he solved it. I’m honestly struggling through the original proof (150+ pages of math and logic) but I’ve written some preliminary text on Wiles and his struggle at solving the problem that has baffled mathematicians for the past 350 years. I’ll be starting with a brief explanation of the theorem, the difficulty in finding a proper proof, the Taniyama-Shimura-Weil conjecture (which, when proved, would logically imply the last theorem), and finally with a (hopefully) simple and brief explanation of Wiles’ proof.
  • What Makes Good Science Fiction - after a conversation with a friend, I realized that some people can become confused with the difference between it and fantasy and what makes for a good sci-fi story. I’ll try and make a good argument for what elements I prefer to see in stories belonging to this genre.
  • The Constitutionally Mandated Three-Term Rule and the Difference Between Term and Tenure - a quick review on the three-term rule as provided for in the Constitution, the 1986 Constitutional Commission’s debates on the matter, jurisprudence expounding on the topic, and a definitive definition of term and tenure.

As to when these articles will be finished and ready for publication will become clearer as we move forward but for now, your guess is as good as mine.

An Extended Hiatus

After completing all the site work and at least a majority of the articles I’ve planned, I’ll be going on an extended hiatus from updating. I’ll start with a well-deserved (in my humble opinion) vacation (it’s summer for Christ’s sake!) and then I’ll be busy with other things that will likely take up most of my time, including weekends. Nevertheless, it’s not like I’m abandoning the site. While there will be the occasional post here and there (including the above-mentioned planned articles), it won’t be on as regular a schedule as we both would hope.

I’ll definitely keep writing, though it may not be up to my own publishable standards. It’s for this very eventuality that I write this. It’s possible, even likely, that I won’t be posting for the foreseeable future. Hopefully, at the end of the hiatus, I’ll be able to continue working on any pending articles, get the up to an acceptable level of quality, and eventually post them up on the site.

Until then, stay alive!

Footnotes

1 I’ll write something longer about this at a future time. Succinctly, I dislike doing things manually when I know a more elegant way is possible. While the latter requires a lot more time and effort up front (planning, coding, etc.), everything will be faster, easier, and the generated code will be standardized from then on. Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing! ;)

2 The change in URLs largely came about as a result of the refactoring of the CMS code. This essentially modified the site’s structure to a flatter hierarchy. In the old site, for example, a link could be six levels deep from the home page but now it’s, at most, at four levels of depth.

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About the Author

Raymond

Raymond Santos Estrella

I guess I should really make a proper writeup here. Something witty or maybe a joke to add some levity. I’ll come back to this when I have time. If you have any suggested copy that I can insert here, drop me a line.

Comments (15)

  • thenewhorde

    thenewhorde

    14 April 2014 at 03:21 |

    We'll definitely miss you! I've been following your blog and review for years and love your way of writing. Here's to coming back sooner rather than later! :)

    reply

  • 927123

    927123

    14 April 2014 at 06:43 |
    Aww shiiiii really??? We'll miss your presence in the blogosphere dude

    reply

  • stiltzkin

    stiltzkin

    14 April 2014 at 08:14 |

    How about getting someone else to write in your absence?

    reply

  • mincemaker

    mincemaker

    14 April 2014 at 08:23 |

    Yeah, I'd be glad to help out if there was something I can do for ya.

    reply

  • beedlebum

    beedlebum

    14 April 2014 at 08:31 |

    me too. i can probably help out with any gfx stuff you need done.

    reply

  • Raymond

    Raymond

    14 April 2014 at 08:32 |

    Nah, while the thought did cross my mind, I'd like this site to remain mine, and mine alone. If the URL spells out my name, I'd like the content here to be solely by me.

    reply

  • Geoff

    Geoff

    14 April 2014 at 08:38 |

    I have some things I might be able to help you out with. Email me!

    reply

  • Kumakaori

    Kumakaori

    14 April 2014 at 09:17 |

    im particularly curious about the fermat article. I encountered the problem in college algebra but never gave it a 2nd thought. please write that first

    reply

  • Voyager

    Voyager

    14 April 2014 at 10:03 |

    Seconded! Any way we can help to speed that up?

    reply

  • Exukvera

    Exukvera

    14 April 2014 at 10:53 |

    How about your reviews? Is that also going to be stalled?

    reply

  • Exukvera

    Exukvera

    14 April 2014 at 11:27 |

    Thanks!

    reply

  • techim

    techim

    14 April 2014 at 11:43 |

    Life really does get in the way of fun!

    reply

  • Raymond

    Raymond

    14 April 2014 at 12:07 |

    Thanks guys! I really, really appreciate it. I'm not entirely sure how much the planned hiatus will affect the site. I'm not even sure if I'll be doing a relative leave of absence or a full-blown hermitic existence. The perennial optimist in me believes the former is more likely than the latter.

    What I'm sure of is that it has to be done and that I'll be back sometime November. Until then, let's just play this by ear.

    Again, thanks for the offers of help. I'll keep you guys in mind if I ever need anything. ^^

    reply

  • Raymond

    Raymond

    14 April 2014 at 12:14 |

    We could start with someone gifting me one of the handful of books that discusses Wiles' proof. His paper is as opaque as lead-lensed glasses to me.

    reply

  • Raymond

    Raymond

    14 April 2014 at 12:22 |

    I hope not. I'm hoping to be able to continue reviewing the next double-cour of Monogatari and maybe a few films. We'll see. :)

    reply

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