Now it's time to take a look at the features we want out of Lincolnite. And I do mean "we". I want to provide the stuff you folks are looking for, of course. But I also need to ensure that I'm making this a project that I want to continue working on day after day. I will break up the features into three categories: content, design, and social.
This one is pretty easy thanks to the feedback I've received this week. You folks want information and opinions about local goings-on in the style that I've been using for over a decade. Easy enough! No point in fixing what isn't broken, right?
I can improve a few things, though. First off, restaurant-related posts tend to go over very well. We Lincolnites enjoy food. I need to see if I can make those posts a more regular feature, whether in the form of reviews or just general conversations about goings-on in the local dining scene. Likewise games tend to be very popular. I've been told that even when games don't generate much direct participation in the form of comments, people still love to play along. Mr. T has been doing an incredible job with his weekly Where In Lincoln series; I want to make his game more accessible and fun, and he and I have already discussed how we can make that happen. I also want to more regularly play games like Twenty Questions, Four Corners, and Common Answers. If you have ideas for other types of games -- preferably ones that don't take me hours to set up! -- I'm all ears.
One thing I haven't done a great job with is opening Lincolnite to a wider array of voices. I want to make this site available to more bloggers. Some will be regular contributors and some will be guest posters. Getting more people on board will help with both the quantity and diversity of content available here. The tricky part: ensuring that certain quality standards are met. I don't want to turn this place into a wasteland of partisan bickering, for example. Lincoln already has the Journal Star comment section for that.
As I mentioned yesterday, many aspects of this site's design bother me. I want a new look on the front end, and I want it to be friendly to the myriad mobile devices out there. (In industry terms, I want to build a "responsive" website.) The difficulty I have is that I am a code guy not a designer. More on that tomorrow.
Speaking of code, the system running this website has to change. One option is to continue using ExpressionEngine, but to basically start from scratch using the latest version. I don't think there's any good way to upgrade the system in place. I've got too many customizations behind the scenes to make a straight upgrade feasible. Another option -- and my preferred one -- is to build my own system as a learning exercise. I've become too comfortable in my career and I need to stretch out a bit. The downside of that option is it would take longer. Whereas I could have a new version of ExpressionEngine up and running and fully customized in a few days, building my own system would take much longer. On the other hand, I could build out the pieces in stages and release them as they're ready.
I dig it when I'm able to get you folks participating, whether it's playing games, commenting on articles, feeding me tips, or even saying hi out in public. Thus I really want to work on the social side of Lincolnite.
With that in mind, I think I will keep some variation of the current nested comment system. Folks seem to enjoy being able to respond to a particular comment. One series of tweaks I do want to make is to the email notification system. Presently, you can either receive a notification for every comment posted on a thread, or for none. That could be refined to make the emails more targeted to you (i.e. only sending emails if somebody has responded directly to you) and less inbox-filling (i.e. only sending one email no matter how many comments there have been). It would also be nice to show you on the website how many comments there have been since your last visit and where you can find them.
I very frequently post on Twitter as both @MrWilson and LNKite, but neither of those accounts feeds content to this website. I would like to change that. There should be a more direct relationship between my activity on Twitter (and other social media venues, where appropriate) and on here. Don't expect much Facebook integration, however. I'm not a Facebook guy.
I would love to make it easier for you to share information with one another. I'm not quite sure what that will look like. At the very least it needs to be easier for you to submit tips and ideas to me. The trouble is, many of the tips I receive aren't "worthy" of being posted here. That's nothing against you or whatever it is you're promoting; it's just that I try to carefully tailor the sort of content I post here for a specific sort of audience. Sometimes I don't have time to put together a post before whatever you're promoting has already happened. (Oops!) And I receive press releases all the time that never make it on here. Why not? Because I don't really care about Budweiser's latest promotion at some random bar in town, and neither do most of you. It's not what this site is about.
That being said, some people do find that information useful, and the folks promoting these things could really use a way to get their information out there. I want to facilitate that somehow. I'm not sure yet what that would look like so let me know if you have ideas.
It's your turn. Are there any feature requests you'd like to see? They can be large or small, specific or generic. Maybe they're quick and simple, maybe they require a lot of work. Now's the time to share them.