A New Sharper Iron Is Coming

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.

Some positives

  • 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.

Some challenges

  • Though accounts and passwords will migrate, they may be a bit out of date by the time the site goes live.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.

Stay tuned

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.

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There are 12 Comments

Nord Zootman's picture

Thank you Aaron for the work you are putting into this site. It is a blessing!

Dave White's picture

I appreciate S/I. Thank you Aaron! I appreciate you!

Will the new S/I have this feature? The ability to post JPGs, PNGs and GIFs in posts?

Dave White's picture

"Though I had hoped to hand the site off to another individual or group a few years ago, that still hasn’t worked out. "

Prospects:
* A seminary
* The GARBC

josh p's picture

I'm so out of date I just learned SI has a Facebook page. Thanks for all you do Aaron! 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Thanks for the thanks!

@Josh, lol.  It's really just an "outlet" for content that feeds there from here. But it can be handy when the .org is offline.

(Oh, there's a Twitter also.)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

josh p's picture

Alas I have no Facebook. Nice to know though that SharperIron is a juggernaut of internet influence :). 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I keep getting calls from Elon asking me for Twitter advice. But I just don't have time for billionaires.

On another topic: another way to capture private messages I like a lot better than printing to PDF: if you have OneNote, install the browser plugin "OneNote Clipper" and grab messages into OneNote. They're automatically organized and indexed that way. (Use the 'article' option rather than 'full page' or 'region' or 'bookmark').

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Aaron Blumer wrote:

On another topic: another way to capture private messages I like a lot better than printing to PDF: if you have OneNote, install the browser plugin "OneNote Clipper" and grab messages into OneNote. They're automatically organized and indexed that way. (Use the 'article' option rather than 'full page' or 'region' or 'bookmark').

Thanks for the tip.  Although it was a bit of a pain to do for each PM thread, it actually worked a lot better than I expected.  I did each each thread as a page under a new folder I called "SI Messages".  I'm happy that I won't lose access to all the messages even once you switch over.

Dave Barnhart

JD Miller's picture

Aaron, thank you for your hard work.  It is easy to visit a site like this and take for granted all that goes on behind the scenes.  

One question though:  will we still be able to search past postings?  Sometimes I will remember that a topic has been discussed here and that there was some really good insight and I will want to go back and find the discussion.  Will that still be possible?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

The plan right now is migrate all the content that is currently available. And it should all be at the same URLs also. Probably a few exceptions to the latter.

There are a lot of different ways to set up search, but they all make it possible to find articles, threads, comments, etc. by keywords or other characteristics.

An update on private message migration: It looks like it may be possible to migrate them in some fashion. It's not a certainty yet, but it may be possible to get them over in a read-only form with appropriate access control--visible only to the people who were involved in the conversation.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

RajeshG's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

The plan right now is migrate all the content that is currently available. And it should all be at the same URLs also. Probably a few exceptions to the latter.

There are a lot of different ways to set up search, but they all make it possible to find articles, threads, comments, etc. by keywords or other characteristics.

An update on private message migration: It looks like it may be possible to migrate them in some fashion. It's not a certainty yet, but it may be possible to get them over in a read-only form with appropriate access control--visible only to the people who were involved in the conversation.

Thanks much for all the work that you have put in to provide this forum for our use.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

The new private msg system is coming along nicely and the likelihood of migrating old PMs in some form is now almost certain.

Most likely, the new system will use the "threads + comments" approach you're already familiar with. The old PMs might appear with the original message and all replies combined as a kind of digest--one for each conversation. That's probably going to be most efficient.

Also, a general design detail: on the new site everything is a bit bigger. My eyes aren't what they used to be. Coincidentally, larger fonts and other elements is sort of "in style" right now anyway in web design. Maybe it's an accessibility thing. It is easier reading--more scrolling, though.

A Thanksgiving pause: the Drupal community and Drupal Answers at Stack Overflow in particular have, as usual, been super helpful. So, thanks, y'all!

And I'm thankful also for the opportunity to work on this. A couple of years ago, I was feeling really overwhelmed by the changes in the tech and not looking forward at all to doing an update. But, providentially, a project at work pulled me back into it this set of technologies. I now know the new stuff as well as I ever knew the old (maybe better)--in this small subset of Drupal API+ PHP.

All that to say, I'm having fun!

Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. (1 Ti 6:17)

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (Jas 1:17)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

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