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New news highlight boxes on Culinate

From On Culinate by
March 25, 2009

Or actually, not so new. It’s just that I’ve been too busy to blog about them, you see. I wrote earlier about our new design for showing off our highlighted stories, blog posts, etc., but noted at that time that they didn’t yet auto roll. I fixed that a few weeks ago: you’ll see that the boxes at the bottom of the home page (they also appear in the left or right column on various interior pages) now periodically auto-roll to the next story.

This auto-rolling has several purposes, but primarily it means that somebody just looking at the page for a while will be exposed to all the items, not just the one we happened to show first. If you’re a hasty reader, or just want to skim quickly through the items, you can run your mouse over them to select each item individually…and the item you’re looking at won’t roll out from under you until you move the mouse aside. Oh, and we pick the starting at random, so people viewing the page at different times will see a different initial item (though our fragment caching may mean that if you return to the page at several times relatively quickly you’ll see the same initial item).

One thing we’ve tried to do on Culinate is to look better on more advanced browsers while also working (where possible) on older browsers. This feature is a good example of that. While it works back to IE6, we do something really neat if you have either the Safari or Chrome browser, both of which are based on the leading-edge WebKit engine: we use a CSS transition to fade between the images. This looks really cool, and makes it a pleasing transition as well.

Thanks for noticing... ;)

New design elements on Culinate

From On Culinate by
February 20, 2009

I finally got around, on Wednesday, to deploying some new design elements that had been sketched out by our wonderful designer last year. You’ve probably noticed the revised “My Culinate” area above fritter, which brings more personal information onto every page and frees up the search box area to be just a search box.

Another fun new element is the revised display for Sift and Most Popular posts, Recent User Posts, etc, which shows up on the home page and also on the interior pages. These are designed to make more content easily available in a minimum of space, while also being fun and informative. I really like them. Next up for these is to get them to auto cycle through their content, which shouldn’t be too hard.

We’ve got more great changes coming. These continue the theme of pulling more user-generated content and user-information onto the home page.

Though we did a lot of compatibility testing for these new changes, a few problems with IE6 still popped up after deployment. I think those are fixed as of this morning. I wish the 20% of our readership that still uses IE6 would upgrade to Firefox, Chrome, or Safari. With the imminent release of IE8, IE6 will be 3 versions and 8 years old. It’s time to move on, folks!

Speeding up the Culinate home page

From On Culinate by
February 20, 2009

In new code deployed to the site this morning I made some configuration tweeks that seem to have sped up the home page load times quite a bit. The home page is heavy with generated content, and the fritter section, in particular, costs a lot to produce and changes frequently.

I increased the size and time to live of our cache of content object cache, and added an additional fragment cache for the generated twitter content, which means that on most page hits we don’t regenerate the fritter content — the big win here.

I’ve got some other ideas that should also help performance, and which I hope to implement soon.

Recent Member Blog Posts added to front page

From On Culinate by
February 10, 2009

We just added member blog posts to the front page of Culinate, in an area that previously held “Most Emailed Articles.” We sacrificed those emailed articles to make room for user content, an initial step in our work to expose much more of our member content (and members themselves) on the home page—we have a lot more of this planned; this was an initial and relatively low impact move.

Because many member blogs posts don’t have a picture, we show the member’s picture if there is one. If you do attach a photo to your post, it will be shown.

As usual, let us know what there is, or isn’t, to like about this.

p.s. Due to page fragment caching on the server, your newly submitted post may not show up immediately, but should get some airplay once the cached fragment expires. I may need to tweak the cache times for that element if they end up being too long.

Sharing with Facebook

From On Culinate by
February 10, 2009

As a quick and easy start to more interaction with Facebook, I just added a new feature to Culinate: a new link in the story tools section that allows people to share an article to their Facebook profile.

Let me know if it works for you!

Internet Explorer issues

From On Culinate by
February 7, 2009

I just fixed several errors that were occuring with Internet Explorer 6 and 7, one of which was introduced in my changes yesterday.

IE users were encounting an issue when loading any standalone page with a blog-post on it, due to IE choking on some javascript code during the page load. Deferring execution of that code until after the page had finished loading seems to have solved the problem.

I also fixed some longer standing issues that plagued IE users who were attempting to add themselves as a fan or a friend of another user.

I would say “God how I hate IE”, but that refrain sounds a bit trite these days, so I won’t bother.

Speeding up member page generation

From On Culinate by
February 6, 2009

I just deployed a new version of the site that, nestled amidst some bug fixes here and there, speeds up user pages some. Instead of fetching user avatar images one by one for the various friends we’re going to display, the code now prefetches the avatars all at once from the image cache, then uses those cached images as the users are displayed.

This turns 10 or 20 database queries into one, and results in a significant speed up in rendering of the user page.

Other small changes include adding the ability for members to flag blog posts (you’ve already been able to flag editorial articles), and changing the wording of the “Publish” button on the blog post editor to “Save and Publish” which is more clear and more a parallel to the “Save as Draft” button.

Thinking about the Culinate site

From On Culinate by
February 5, 2009

It’s interesting today to see many of the Culinate members, some from way back at the beginning, finding their member pages. Member pages are a feature that we’d planned since the beginning but have only taken online in the last several months.

One of the tasks before me is to migrate more of the user-generated content to the front of the site, where people can appreciate it, be appreciated for it, find new friends, etc.

For me, there seems a never ending stream of things I really want to do for Culinate, and yet only so many hours in the day. But seeing users using a part of the site we’ve worked hard on for months brings great rewards.

Culinate Member:

James Berry

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James Berry’s Content


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