V-Announcements: Site Refresh and New Connections

I don’t know what it is about Production servers, but they’re always different from Staging and Test servers. And when I say “different” I mean “sinister and evil”. Never the less, we have successfully launched Velominati’s site refresh. It was high time, too; after serving us well for V years, the site’s infrastructure was showing its age and the site’s design needed to be updated to accommodate our plans for 2015.

Most of you will never see most of what has changed on the site; this was a ground-up rebuild that lays the foundation for evolving the site in accordance with our plans for 2015 and beyond. The majority of those updates will be transparent to everyone but me and some will only be visible to the Keepers and Guest Contributors, but the most exciting pieces are centered around the community and providing additional ways to track conversations and connect with one another.

When we launched in 2009, we never imagined what this project would grow into. Back then it was just a handful of us posting snarky comments on a few crappy articles and it was quite easy to follow the conversations (which, as they are today, were hilarious). As we’ve grown, it’s become harder and harder to keep on top of the various threads which is a great shame; the articles have always only been a launching point, the conversations are where the fun happens.

There has also been a clear desire for people to connect directly and hold private conversations; in the past I’ve been able to connect people via email but that also hasn’t scaled in the last few years so providing a way to do this safely directly through the site is the logical next step.

The biggest components of the site update are new ways to connect and communicate with one another. The site now gives us the ability to aggregate comments posts into our activity feed and also connect with other members and send each other private messages. You can follow and friend members on their profile page which you get to by clicking their name on the posts of all articles and pages. (You can also follow members directly from the articles.) These features are also available for all those who frequent the site but choose not to post publicly (which represents about 99.5% of our audience.)

The main difference between Friending and Following is that following is a one-directional connection and friending is a two-directional connection. In other words, in order to be friends, both parties need to agree to the connection while anyone can follow anyone. Friends can message each other privately and organize themselves into groups, while following allows for collecting their posts into a centralized activity feed so you can better stay on top of the conversations. (This actually doesn’t appear to be working as intended at the moment; it was tricky to test this while in development as I needed the live data to see it in action. Keep an eye out for improvements in this space over the coming weeks.)

Please keep in mind that these features are meant to add choices to the way we currently connect; the site continues to function as before so you can just keep on as you always have if you don’t want or need any of the new features.

Other features include, in no particular order:

  1. A fully responsive layout which means I no longer need to maintain both a mobile and desktop site. I’ve noticed some weirdness here too but it seems to basically work. Clear your caches before reporting any issues please.
  2. The homepage now shows the V most recent articles instead of 3. This change is mostly for symmetry and cross-v-ginations.
  3. Save for a few unavoidable cases, all CSS design elements are laid out in multiples of V units (i.e. padding: 5px, font-size: 1.5em; etc.)  This mostly serves to satisfy my OCD.
  4. The entire sites architecture was built using pluggable technology which means that the site shouldn’t need to crash every time WordPress or one of the plugins we use puts out an update.
  5. The login page now looks appropriately V.

Look for more changes coming in 2015; we look forward to another amazing year of enjoying Cycling together.

Cheers, and Coppi New Year!

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