Though I had hoped to hand the site off to another individual or group a few years ago, that still hasn’t worked out. Meanwhile, web technology has raced on. The CMS (Content Management System) SharperIron.org is built on will soon reach, as they say in the software biz, end of life.
For that and other reasons, a new site is going through its birth pangs and, Lord willing, will deliver “soon.”
How soon? That is yet to be determined.
A few things about the new build are known, though. This transition is not primarily a site upgrade or site redesign. It’s more like a “this ship is sinking so we’ve got to get over to a better boat” situation. That said, a few things will improve.
- In this version, there will continue to be no pop-ups, no subscription nag screens, and no auto-play videos.
- Accounts and passwords and most of your other profile info will migrate.
- There will still be a private messaging feature.
- Navigation will be streamlined.
- The Forum structure will be simpler.
- For comments, a new “quote selected” feature will replace the current, more limited “reply” button. The new feature lets you highlight as many portions of other comments as you wish and add them to your comment with the quoted author identified.
- Though accounts and passwords will migrate, they may be a bit out of date by the time the site goes live. So if you have trouble signing in, try older password. This would be a good time to make sure the email address in your profile is still a good one. You’ll need it to be able to receive a password change email if you have trouble signing in.
- Private Messages are, as of this moment, unlikely to migrate to the new private message tool. If you have private messages you want to keep, one way you can do it is to open the conversation in a browser and then print to “Save as PDF.” If you have a large number you want to keep and this method isn’t practical, let me know. There is probably a way to export them to a format you can use.
- Polls. There will still be polls, but the old ones are going to migrate as summaries without the bar graphs. Newly created polls will include the chart. The process of creating a poll may involve an additional step or two, but should be more flexible. It might be possible to add polls to comments. (The support for that is there, but it remains untested as of this writing.)
- Forum: The number of forum sections/categories will be reduced to about 7. Subtopics will be user-tagged using the forum tags field.
- The Blogroll will be retired.
- For the few nerds who know what BB code is, that is also going away.
- Notification emails: You may have noticed that email notifications of new discussion posts, etc., are often intermittent or not working at all. Email is not as simple as it used to be—especially authentication to avoid being categorized as spam. Details are sketchy, but the plan is to improve notifications.
The transition will require the site to go offline for a while—a few days to a week. As the new build progresses, the anticipated downtime length is shrinking. Hopefully that trend continues. During the transition, check the Facebook page for updates. An “offline” page should appear at the main web address also with updates—especially if something goes wrong and there is a delay.
New web technologies seem to be born every day. Old school DIYers like me can’t really keep up with all the “containerized,” and “headless,” and “serverless,” and whatnot available now. And it’s currently cool to relabel Content Management Systems as Digital Experience Platforms. Well, they have changed in substantial ways.
But the “open-source PHP CMS on a Linux virtual server with MySQL and Apache or Nginx” solution hasn’t yet gone the way of the dinosaur. In some ways, it’s a better option than ever. And it can still be done on the cheap!
That said, if you have web tech expertise, especially serverless/cloud expertise, and want to help out, send me a note. If you know how to profile code and find places where slowness is happening, that’s also of interest. If there isn’t a niche for your skills at the moment, there probably will be in the future.
There will be at least one more post on this topic before the transition, and in that one it should be possible to specify some dates. At the moment it looks like the move should happen close to year end or January of 2023.
Aaron Blumer is a Michigan native and graduate of Bob Jones University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). He and his family live in small-town western Wisconsin, not far from where he pastored Grace Baptist Church for thirteen years. In his full time job, he is content manager for a law-enforcement digital library service.