We have been having fun with Sleep Centre recently. Lots of incremental improvements and tweaks. Also a few bugs found and squished.
Sleep Centre is the first contact most people have with DssW. As with any first impression I am keen DssW presents itself well.
I have been busying myself building new tools and scripts to get the most from our archive of conversations. As internal tools I had the freedom to play with a handful of new technologies.
From flea market to art gallery
The archive is stored in a collection of text files going back six years. The raw contents of those text files is a long way from the conversations you see on the site today.
Our new tools use a wonderful mix of technologies. Previously we used a combination of Perl and MySQL; we have now said goodbye to MySQL and hello to Apple's Core Data.
Making the best shine through
In the past Sleep Centre has only ever reproduced line for line the orginal conversations. This is no longer the case.
Where appropriate, the content is now condensed, reformatted, or highlighted to make sure pearls of value are not lost in a sea of banter.
Changing this policy was not done lightly but I believe the result is more focused and useful.
What's new in Sleep Centre?
The archive contains a disturbing amount of quoted material. Often newer messages quote chunks of previous messages. This quoting is helpful when viewing messages in isolation but redundant when the previous content is a scroll away.
Quotes gained a couple of improvements and more improvements are planned in the future.
Quotes in colour
Quotes have been colour coded. Picking out original content is much easier with coloured blocks.
Thanks to BareBone's excellent Mailsmith program for the colours.
No more angle brackets
The original quote markers have been removed. The cluster of angle brackets down the left hand side of the paragraph felt visually awkward and duplicated the block quote notation used by web pages.
Block quotes are styled with a thin coloured bar separated from the text. Close enough to denote the quoted text but far enough away to be unobtrusive.
Links to related conversations
Conversations include links to other relevant conversations and categories.
The archive is being hand sorted and tagged. As each conversation is reviewed and tagged, we can find and highlight related conversations. The process is far from fast but the value it adds more than justifies our effort.
Categories and RSS feeds
Tagged conversations let us provide categories of conversations to make searching even easier.
All our categories have associated RSS feeds for the technically savvy. Subscribing to a category keeps you informed any time a new related conversation appears.
Visit the Sleep Centre categories page to browse around and subscribe.
Thanks for your feedback
As with all things DssW, we love getting your comments and feedback. Please let us know what you like and where we should focus our effort.