December 13th, 2011
Hello dear Vintage Printable users! How are you? Are you all still good-looking, talented, and kind to animals? Yes? Terrific!
We have news. About 2000+ new images are uploaded.
And now, we’re on the mend.
We had given up, sort of, in disgust last May or so after our last go round with a web professional who didn’t fix the underlying problems before the redesign. And, dear readers, we’re still telling stories about how 5 minutes after we posted our complaint about how we couldn’t get our money back, our web developer was bombarded with 40+ e mails from YOU. <333. We heart our readers. You all are great.
And so, with the money burning a hole in our pocket, we did what any self-respecting web owner would do: We set it aside and stewed. Lacking introspection of any type, we neglected to take ownership in what we could have done better to work with a developer. (Web developer readers are you rolling your eyes, and saying silently, “You and all our other clients?” Mea culpa x 100).
And so, we couldn’t figure out who could help us fix up the site. We first asked our friends what to do. Our ritzy friends sent us to West LA ad agencies. But, the agencies (and no disrespect to their talent for advertising and marketing) asked us what we wanted, and we had no idea, we said, what do you think? They said they thought we should charge for the images. We said no. That pretty much ended that. It’s way too early for ad agencies, when the site didn’t even work properly. Not that it’s not fun to deal with ad agencies. (How come people at ad agencies are so terrific? Maybe it’s because we don’t deal with them all the time, so we didn’t give them time to annoy us. OK, we’re overthinking this.)
And, we asked our investment-club Indian national friend who has actual, successful tech companies. He kindly humored us and referred us to his “tech people” in India. After bouncing around through a couple e-mail loops, we connected with some coders in India. This was actually pretty easy since they have a 408 area code phone number (that’s San Jose, still within the no charge region for us). Plus, the person was very kind, patient, and had lived in San Jose, but said he moved back to India because he was the only son. (We’ve had students, when we’ve taught grad school from time to time, who have been in this predicament. We’re going to visit all of our former students who went back to India one day on one big trip.) We thought it was interesting that at the Moscone not long ago there was a tech job fair not too long ago for jobs in. . . INDIA. Whoa. The world is flat like a Möbius strip.
In any event, at some point, the fog cleared and we realized the obvious: we needed to actually learn the technical mumbo jumbo. It’s painful. We’d rather just have a button that says “magically fix everything.” And so, we prepared a slide deck, and then a detailed, 5-page RFP. This went back and forth a couple of times. The payment was to be by milestones, that we clearly defined. Even though we have a contract in writing and all of that, the point is that the site has to work. That was our mistake the first time. The site didn’t work when the redesign was done.
But — and this is key — we had to figure out why the site didn’t work, in order to state that clearly in the RFP. With trepidation we wondered into the valley of the living dead of MySQL and php. For those wonkishly inclined, the problem was this:
1. The dedicated server directory structure, holding the image files, could only hold about 1000 images before the server just didn’t work. Some of the directories just had too many images (and our images are 1MB-2MB, we have about 20000+). We didn’t realize this at all. We used Filezilla to upload images into the directories by month. That would have been fine, but for each image then being resized to thumbnails, medium, etc. So that multiplied the file numbers. So the number of files in the directories had to be reduced by moving the images to new directories. Moving them would mess up the order in the WordPress media library — and that’s why some of the images are just blanks.
2. Uploading to WordPress. The problem is that when we upload the images from the dedicated server to the WordPress media library, the images wouldn’t stay in the directories we created by month — they would then switch somehow (unknown to us) to a single month. So on WordPress there was one big directory containing a number of months. We like WordPress a lot, and really don’t want to move to a different platform.
3. And, to add insult to injury, we had to update to the most recent WordPress version. But, we couldn’t update our WordPress version because we had the wrong php/MySQL version that wouldn’t do the update thingee. We know how to update the php version, but we checked php fora, and all the users said that updating the php would mess up the MySQL database, and you have to update both, which we didn’t know how to do.
Back to India: The RFP went back and forth quite reasonably, and then they asked us to wire a very reasonable amount of upfront money. We said we’d rather not wire the money, but would prefer to pay by credit card or by check, and could they use PayPal? We never heard back. (This was about 2-3 weeks ago). *Sigh*
So, we started to fix things ourselves, which hasn’t turned into an awful nightmare yet. We IM’d the dedicated server support and figured out that we could get our dedicated server provider (GoDaddy) to update the php/MySQL for $49.95, significantly less than our India tech. Then we could update the WordPress ourselves.
And then the clouds parted and a golden light shined down on our website. With the new WordPress version we could choose whether to transfer files into the WordPress media library using the current date (the old way, one-big-directory problem) or using the date of the directory (YAY, the date we set up on the dedicated server). That means that WordPress media library would have the same structure as our dedicated server, hallelujah, it’s a miracle, no coding needed. Sorry folks in India, just completed milestone 1.5.
What we learned: We need to speak the tech mumbo jumbo language and prepare a detailed RFP. There’s no way around it. You have to spell out every little thing. You can’t just say, “this site doesn’t work, fix it.”
Now, ta da, we’ve uploaded all of our images since April 2011 -> November 2011. Many of these we’ve posted as albums on Facebook . We’re in process of organizing the images into the galleries on the different pages here. Plus for some reason, Filezilla lost the meta information, so we have to re-tag each image. Not a big deal, but time-consuming. We still need to go back to our March 2011 directory on the dedicated server, and split out those images into smaller directories, and then re-load those onto WordPress media library. That will probably mess up some of the galleries, so if you see empty squares, that’s what that’s all about.
We’ve also gotten rid of the flash wall galleries. We really thought the flash walls were better than the ordinary click-through galleries because you could glance at all the images all at once. Plus we thought it was a more accurate measure of user engagement — the analytics weren’t geared to page views, but rather time spent on the site. Anyone can get lots of page views by just putting one little thing on a page to force users to click to another page. We think that’s sort of cheating. But, we were the only one who liked the flash walls according to all comments except one or two, and to quote a trusted advisor, “why do you have those stupid flash walls?” We’re not crazy about the gallery format we have now, and we’ll be looking for a better one. We like the format at our beta-site (here). We’ve tried a number of WordPress gallery plugins, but the trouble is that the images aren’t picked up by SEO when they’re inside some of the galleries.
The next issue is whether to stay on the dedicated server, or move to the cloud. We can’t get a good cost comparison, so we’re staying on the dedicated server for now. When we did our cloud estimate, we came up with $4000/month. We probably screwed up the calculations since we didn’t know what we were doing. We’ll have to buy more bandwidth, probably, at some point, to make things go faster, but our analytics say that we’re below our limits of data transfer.
Once we’re up to date on the images, which is merely time-consuming rather than a technical impossibility, we’re going to have another go at the landing page and navigation, that everyone also hates but we like. *sigh*
So, dear readers, very best wishes during this holiday season. Print off some images and put them in a nice frame for gifts instead of spending money you don’t have.
Don’t forget to use our image search function: Search the Site
For the images, right click to view/save/open in a new tab, depending on your browser.
Some of our latest favorites:
How about a nice green bird? (Click to go to full size image)
Want a new family member? If this photo could talk, what would she say?
More to come, thanks for checking in.