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Incremental upgrades to Flayrah

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Recently I've found the time to make a few changes to Flayrah. If you're reading this on another site, you might want to drop by to see them.

As always, I'm interested in your thoughts as to how we could make Flayrah a better resource, from a technical, social, or content standpoint. The site's been up almost a decade, and I'd like it to remain relevant for the next ten years – so if you want something, speak up!

User interface

A few months ago, I added tags to over 2500 archived posts from 2001 to 2009. You can see them in our tag cloud; and now, on our header. Why there? To help visitors grasp the focus of the site and browse popular topics. (Art would help, too, and I have a few designs in mind.)

The new header makes better use of space. Margins have been trimmed, and our LiveJournal, Twitter and Facebook links are now icons, leaving more room for search and content. Font sizes should also be more consistent; in particular, body text is now more readable in IE.

The style and functionality of comments has been refined over the past few months, thanks in part to a few involved discussions that pushed the limits of the default layout. Comments are one of Flayrah's greatest strengths, and I intend to do more to highlight our best in the future.

Story features

Images can now be uploaded in association with a news post. Sometimes a picture can speak a thousand words, and it's a lot more compact.

Related links are provided at the bottom of each story. The selection is determined by attached tags, starting with the most recently-created, which also tend to be the most specific – this story should link Flayrah-related stories by date, then those about other websites.

I've also added an author pane, drawing information from user profiles with code developed for our list of contributors. If there's nothing there for you, now's a good time to say something about yourself!

Front page

We now have a news chat on the front page, intended for discussing interesting one-line tidbits that aren't quite on topic or which you can't expand into a story. (Of course, if it is enough for a story, please submit it.)

Translation is also available, courtesy of the Google Language API and TranslateThis. Alas, the Chinese translation of "furry" is still "orc".

I've also updated our list of news sources. Unfortunately alt.fan.furry has been overrun by spam, and the Furtean Times has gone offline, but we have new feeds from Furry Reddit and Red Furros (a Spanish-language furry portal which has several interviews in English).

Comments

Your rating: None

I suggest adding one of those handy orange share buttons that brings up a list of services you can share/post/bookmark a news article.

Your rating: None

I'm not a fan of orange, but how about green blue?

We can go bigger, but I kinda like the less-obtrusive version. Readers should be able to focus on the content.

I pushed LiveJournal to the top of the list and added Furry Reddit and furryne.ws – any more furry services?

Your rating: None

You could have green http://sharethis.com/

I haven't really compared the merits between the above service and www.addthis.com or www.addtoany.com but the addthis.com one seems to be the one used on InkBunny and can have a little counter too. Plus the gallery section (www.addthis.com/gallery) suggests it's highly flexible in appearance.

And how about turning the comments form into a wysiwyg text editor? http://tinymce.moxiecode.com/ and http://elrte.org/ are two such plugins that allow you to limit the buttons to just what you want.

Your rating: None

Ok I only just noticed the little blue button you added so nevermind!

Your rating: None

I chose AddToAny for now because it seemed fast and had a well-updated Drupal module.

I've considered a rich-text comment box in the past. It's an option for composing stories. The things that held me back from using it for comments are performance (it's faster now than a few years ago, but still takes time to load), compatibility with AJAX Comments, and my reluctance to encourage people to add extraneous formatting.

It's possible to use a subset of HTML already, though perhaps that could be emphasized.

Your rating: None

It's possible to use a subset of HTML already, though perhaps that could be emphasized.

Nooo!

Now while I'm a person who regularly works with HTML, in my opinion it is not a user friendly approach to adding rich formatting to comments.

  • You have to understand it in the first place (such as making a list)
  • You might do it incorrectly, such as not closing tags or misspelling blcokquote
  • Requires more typing
  • Underused anyway because of the hassle

Case in point was that earlier I couldn't be bothered to do the whole More information about formatting options link ought to open either in a pop up or a new window cus for me it takes me to a new page and messes up the comment I was writing when I click the back button.

Your rating: None

I like the changes made to the site so far. Makes the front page look busier than the average blog.

A few suggestions:
"Related posts" automatically prepended or appended to the post similar to Cracked.com could help users to be drawn to other articles on the site.

Here's a list of resources:
http://drupal.org/project/similar
http://drupaleasy.com/blogs/ryanprice/2008/06/using-views-2-drupal-6-create-a-re...
http://www.hankpalan.com/blog/drupal/related-content-views-2-drupal

Also, signing in with Twitter (or, if its desirable to you in the future, Facebook Connect) should automatically sync with pre-existing Flayrah user account credentials. Signing in with Twitter currently directs me to register my username when I already have one on Flayrah.

Your rating: None

Whoops, didn't see the bottom of the page. Actually, it might be better if both the "Related stories" and "About the author" were moved directly under the tags section of the post rather than the bottommost region of the page, at least to keep them within the immediate sight of the user.

Your rating: None

I'm not sure I can easily get them there, because in Drupal 6 comments are not separate from the content - there's no block location to insert them. This is fixed in Drupal 7, which is unfortunately not out yet, let alone ready for use.

What I tried to do instead was float them to the right, so they're in-line with the comment box. I really wanted to get the related stories first, but I ran into some really annoying issues related to floating the user picture that I wasn't able to work out.

Unfortunately, while this initially looks OK, it doesn't work very well - particularly for previewing comments - so I think I'm going to have to revert it.

Your rating: None

I tried messing with Facebook for a long time, but the available modules are awkward and don't seem to work well for what I want to do with them. Facebook's policy on user accounts is also very limiting, and I'm not sure it's worth the confusion of linking people's public and furry identities.

If you already have an account here, you need to add your Twitter account by editing your user profile before trying to login with it. You may still find it redirects you back to the login page with a message saying you can't use the page (since you are now logged in); possibly an unfortunate interaction issue with LoginToboggan module. The experience is not great and it's an area I need to work on (or possibly remove, since the site doesn't use the Twitter functionality much).

Your rating: None

It's not the Twitter functionality, but rather that a person's Twitter account can be used as a means of authentication into their account. My request would be the ability to sign into my profile using an OpenID so I don't have to trust flayrah with my password please. Possibly implemented using a service like Janrain. Certainly I can understand why it's unlikely to happen though, it is a hassle to get it all working and whether anyone other than myself would want to authenticate via OpenID is questionable.

Your rating: None

I'd like to let people use OpenID, and there is core support for it in Drupal (albeit not well-maintained), the issue is that it's incompatible with our Ajax plugin. Hopefully that can be fixed.

Of course, another solution is simply to use a different password for Flayrah. :-) Most web browsers have auto-fill-in, and we also let you recover it by email if you forget it.

Edit: Tell you what: Just for you, I'll disable the Ajax plugin on that form for now, and I'll throw in a workaround for LiveJournal being silly and not accepting POST requests for OpenID 2.0.

Your rating: None

Course for me that's not such a problem remembering several passwords, but it's still a usability problem in principle. Since I don't really gain anything I need at the moment through site membership, I'll choose the easy route of being a visitor.

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About the author

GreenReaper (Laurence Parry)read storiescontact (login required)

a software developer and Norn from London, UK, interested in wikis and computers

Small fuzzy creature who likes cheese & carrots. Founder of WikiFur, lead admin of Inkbunny, and Editor-in-Chief of Flayrah.