Announcing . . . SharperIron 3.0!

(And yes, we need money)

SI 3.0The great British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli is credited with saying, “The good is the enemy of the best.” Sage advice. Scripture also calls us to pursue excellence, not settling for one “talent” but striving to double whatever the Lord has entrusted to us (Matt. 25: 20-21). As adopted sons and daughters of the One whose “way is perfect” (Ps. 18:30 NKJV), believers must strive for excellence in everything to reflect the character of their Father.

As usual, Jesus said it best. “Be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).

But pursuing excellence and perfection is complex. We can’t simply—as many say—“give one hundred percent, one hundred percent of the time.” The math doesn’t work. As soon as we give one hundred percent of our time and energy to one thing, we have zero percent left for anything else. And God has given us all multiple responsibilities.

No, excellence has to do with the overall quality of a life or an enterprise, and all pursuit of perfection must be incremental and dispersed. That often means settling for far less than perfection in one area in order to make needed improvements in another and advance the whole.

Some of us (incorrectly labeled “perfectionists”) really struggle with this matter. We have a tendency to obsess endlessly over select details, never feeling that they are good enough. So unless we eventually accept imperfection or what feels like mediocrity, we will never get anything done. For us, a qualified version of the Disraeli Principle is more helpful. As a deacon in my church put it, “The good may be the enemy of the best, but the perfect is often the enemy of the good.”

SharperIron 3.0

With that in mind I’m pleased to announce that SI is moving to a new and improved (though quite imperfect) home. The site will still be at the same sharperiron.org Web address you’re used to, but we’ll be packing up all the data in digital boxes, hauling them to a new database, and unpacking them again. It’s easier than relocating your family to a new house, but brings similar challenges.

Moving means that some things will not be in the right place for a while, and others will be missing (maybe forever!). It also means that even though the house is new and officially “done,” some of the plumbing will still be in progress when we arrive, a few rooms will still be unpainted, and there will be a few unfinished or broken things here and there that the builders didn’t notice or forgot about. Moving is like that.

But it also means everything looks new, feels new, and offers—in this case—lots of new places to put things. That part is just plain fun!

Improvements

One of the major challenges for the current SI (2.0) was that we wanted a site that provided not only a blog-like front page for news and articles but also a forum. And we needed somehow to link the two. That meant using two separate software platforms and coaxing them into working together. A fair amount of digital scotch tape and bubble gum was required, especially to get both sides to share the same user accounts. My hat’s off to those who managed to do it!

In the end both software platforms proved to have deficiencies of their own, one having been designed for fairly simple blog sites and the other having been designed (apparently) for large forum sites with enough resources to employ a person or two just to handle updates.

Consequently, a goal of the new design was to find a way to get the entire site under one roof. Drupal (pronounced DROO-pull) 6 allowed us to do that and a lot more.

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New features of SI 3.0 (click on thumbnails for enlargements)

  • Fresh look and feel
  • Smoother integration of front page and forums
  • Unified searching (one search box for finding articles, forum contents, and members)
  • A built-in ad system offering new, more-attractive options for advertisers
  • Easy-to-find contact links (no more hunting for the right place to click to get a message to the Moderators or Admins)
  • Unified “About SI” pages that put the Doctrinal Statement, Comment Policy, FAQs, and other documents in one easy-to-find place
  • Improved registration process (more effective blocking of spam registrations, better implementation of membership requirements)
  • Space for a future “SI Store” or something similar
  • Scripture references that display their texts in pop-ups (via RefTagger)
  • Many other small interface improvements like optional blocks users can disable and a forum comment form that is always enabled and ready for text at the bottom of each thread
  • In addition to these improvements, old features like the Blogroll and Foundry will live on as well.

How you can help

All this has required a great deal of time and work. The new site has been under construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction for almost a year. Many minds have been involved, though most have labored for the open source Drupal community in general rather than for SI in particular. But parts of development had to be hired out, and we are in need of several hundred dollars to help pay for that (along with the six-month bandwidth bill due this month). Donations of five or ten dollars from even a minority of SI readers would go a long way toward paying off the project and making the new site even better. Please consider helping us in that way over the next few weeks.

Trade offs and details

Of course, like any move, there are some trade-offs. So far, 3.0 is a little bit slower (but we think this is temporary), the private messaging system requires some getting used to, and articles and posts imported from the current site will come with a few odd characters and other quirks here and there. A new “SI 3.0 User Guide” will be available (with a link at the top of each page) to help you find your way around and make use of the features.

Lord willing, SI 2.0 will go off-line on Thursday, May 28, and 3.0 will be online by Monday morning, June 1. If all goes according to plan, your current user name and password will allow access to the new site. Watch for further updates in the weeks ahead.

headshot2.jpgAaron Blumer, SI’s site publisher, is a native of lower Michigan and a graduate of Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC) and Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). He, his wife, and their two children live in a small town in western Wisconsin, where he has pastored Grace Baptist Church (Boyceville, WI) since 2000. Prior to serving as a pastor, Aaron taught school in Stone Mountain, Georgia, and served in customer service and technical support for Unisys Corporation (Eagan, MN). He enjoys science fiction, music, and dabbling in software development.
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