Site upgrade update
So, for a long time now, I've been talking about upgrading SWAG and what it would take. I've been planning and scheming and trying to learn things I thought I'd need, or KNEW I'd need, and after well... YEARS of this now, I'm ready to start talking about it. The upgrade process has happened roughly a dozen times by now. You all have never gotten the benefit of it because I've never finished it and released it to you. This is sad, but frankly one thing or another would eventually freeze me from being able to go forward, and I'd just get stuck. The biggest of those problems has always been the images. The existing image solution has complicated my life tremendously because it's been replicating images for no real reason, and a site that should be a few hundred MB in size has grown to upwards of 60 GB.
After some technical discussions with friends, and a lot of work experimenting, I actually have a local copy of most of swag up and running on my laptop. This is HUGELY encouraging and the primary motivator for this post. In this post I'll kind of update you on exactly where we stand, what my goals are, and what sorts of compromises we may need or want to make going forward.
Where are we?
Currently on my local box I've migrated all static pages, news articles, images and blogs. The forums are next, and after forums the comments. Comments are actually the primary method of communication on the site, and we have over 20,000 of them. Which as huge as that sounds I think should be rather simple to migrate (I HOPE!). Images have actually been the biggest problem at the moment, and I'm still working through my methodology to get them all across. I have a method that's working fairly well, however I still seem to not get all the images that I'm expecting to get, and this is moderately problematic as I KNOW we've lost a few images, and I want this process to reveal exactly which images are lost, and which images are not so that I can go about attempting to get all these images BACK into the system. Most lost images are of the relatively recent variety which gives me some hope in this area.
Blogs were migrated for the first time last night, and I've not done strict check on them to see how all the images did, but this uses a different system than the main image system for galleries, so the details of migrating them will be different. It is worth noting that both systems will be unified into a single approach. This shouldn't affect you all at all, but it should make my life easier on going.
News and Pages are a simple matter and already done, so I have no reservations about these. Forums similarly should be relatively straight forward I think. I never let the site use complicated comment mechanisms, so I think this should be easy as well. I would in fact even predict that I might have forums and comments all pulled across tonight. :-) We will see though.
This brings me to the last major source of content on the site which is private messages. I'll be continuing this feature one way or another in the next release of SWAG, however what is the general community feeling on the existing message? Should I work to maintain this history? Do you all care about it? Should I just throw it away and keep moving (Not the feature, just the existing messages). This is content that I can't begin to put a valuation on. I don't read any messages but the ones that come to me, so it's kind of hard to tell how much you all use the system. A quick glance at the tables suggest that it's pretty heavily used, there are over 3000 messages in there, which probably mirrors the amount of blog and image content the site has generated since I implemented the feature. Still the messages I get are a lot of very "one off" in nature, and there aren't any conversations I've had that were super important or relevant for archiving purposes. But that may just be me, which is why I'm asking. I don't see this as a huge technical hurdle, but if no one cares, I'm not going to put in the effort (if that makes sense). Still it might make sense long term to put together a solution here so that I can keep a separate backup utility running for my own sanity. I dunno, talk it out in the comments.
My short term goals for SWAG are... well I'd like to think they're modest. The new SWAG should streamline the work involved for guild members and non guild members alike to get art up on the site. In this way I hope to lower the barrier to participation, which will hopefully increase the site's content and traffic. With that in mind, I intend on investing some time to make the site more performant. If you can browse faster, you're likely to browse more, and that would be a good thing for both the site and it's users. This brings us to traffic. Currently the site, month in, month out, does about 100,000 page views. With faster pages, more content, etc, I'm hoping we can move to a consistent doubling of that numbers (a quarter million views a month would be fantastic and might give us the ability to do something more dramatic like buy hardware).
Anyway, that's what I'm working toward, that's what I want to see happen. Reality and my fantasy may never align, but I'm working hard toward this goal. It will be a few months (at best) before what I'm working on is ready for you all to use, but when it is, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised, or at least I hope you will.