The Future of Lincolnite: Part 2

By: Mr. Wilson on June 11, 2013
Before we tackle the "what's next?" questions associated with Lincolnite's future, let's first talk about what things look like now. There is a mix of good and bad going on. First the bad. I designed this iteration of the website over five years ago. While age alone isn't inherently a bad thing, the fact that I'm not a designer is. Sure, you folks have told me you're here for the content. Yet every time I type into my browser and I see the existing site design, I cringe. It's not the most offensive look on the web, but it had its day. It's time for something fresh. More importantly, the design was crafted to accommodate goals that no longer reflect reality. Consider the site navigation in the upper right. "Classifieds"? "Directory"? "Events"? "Forums"? "Gallery"? None of those things exist any more, and the Classifieds and Directory sections barely ever existed in the first place. One also has to wonder what the difference is between "Articles" and "Blogs". That distinction is fuzzy at best. The right sidebar also has issues. There are four separate blogs listed, but two aren't used any more (625 Elm Street and DMB Sports Report). Mr. T's Den is really only used for Mr. T's weekly "Where In Lincoln" posts, which really should belong to the main blog. The long and short of it is that although it is nice to know who is posting content, "where" they are posting is largely irrelevant. The widget showing tweets containing the #LNK hashtag is mildly useful at times, but the feature isn't being utilized particularly well. Then there's the blogroll. Holy cow is that ever out of date. In fact, I almost forgot it was there. Finally there's the monthly archive. 'Tis a handy list of links for very rare purposes, but practically speaking all it does is show that I've been actively blogging on this system for a very long time. (I blogged for a few years before the end of that list, but a teeny tiny little database disaster nuked it all.) There are other design problems as well. Some are subtle. For example, for a while I had enabled a feature that would show you which comments were new since the last time you visited. The feature broke during a system upgrade many moons ago and, for whatever reason, I never got around to fixing it. It was a great little feature that regular commenters miss. Mr. T, our resident photography expert, likes to point out how woefully the current site design presents images within posts. You can't easily set up image galleries, nor can you easily display images wider than 450 pixels. The problems happening behind the curtain are far more severe. Lincolnite runs on a system called ExpressionEngine (EE). I love EE. In fact, building websites and website components in EE is my job. But in a classic case of the cobbler's children lacking footwear, the version of EE running this site is embarrassingly out of date. The system and its various add-ons all technically work, but the entire collection is so ridiculously fragile at this point that I can no longer upgrade any individual component without blowing up the whole thing. That's why spam comments are such a problem at times, for example. It's a house of cards and I've been hoping for years that nobody sneezes. I could go on, but let's not beat this poor horse any more. Let's switch to the good stuff. [crickets chirping] I kid! Despite how frustrated I am with all of the stuff above (and more!), there are some good things going on here. People come to Lincolnite for the content, as you stressed yesterday. We can break that down into three components: 1) news and information, filtered for a specific type of audience; 2) analysis and opinion; 3) comments and reactions from readers. Those are our strengths and they are what need to be used as the foundation for whatever comes next. In addition, periodic injections of content "sugar" help sweeten the experience. The games and contests I create tend to be very popular and they probably should happen more often to help people stay engaged with the site. All these years of writing content have helped to build a great little community. It's still a little weird to me, but I've become a bit of a C-list celebrity around Lincoln. Folks don't necessarily know "me", but they know or have heard of Mr. Wilson. Thanks to this website I have met many of you in person. In fact, I ate lunch with three of you yesterday at Leadbelly. (Look for a review soon!) I also get a kick out of how many people spot The Missus and my kids around town. And we're a diverse group. Regular readers include folks on the political far right and the far left; evangelical Christians and militant atheists; wealthy homeowners on the City's fringes and folks just barely scraping by. I'm not making up those characterizations to make a point; you folks have described yourselves to me in those terms. We're all here because we enjoy participating in the community in various ways. That's our link. Lincolnite could do more with this community of ours. Right now Lincolnite helps build a small buzz for certain local businesses. That has been neat to see at times. And you folks have come through amazingly with thousands of dollars in donations for various causes over the years. That's just plain awesome. Yet I can't help but feel like there's more potential here. So while content is the foundation of Lincolnite's next iteration, our community should play a big part in the core infrastructure.
That's how I perceive the current state of Lincolnite. Did I miss anything? What do you think about the way things are here at Lincolnite?


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