• Dadman with a boy
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The zombie strikes back
« on September 18th, 2013, 11:10 AM »
So... It's been over a year since the last blog post, and a few weeks since we celebrated the 3rd anniversary of the creation of this little project called Wedge, that took the life of two promising web developers and turned them into lifeless zombies with a crave for blood. Oh, maybe I meant vampires.

For those of you who didn't follow the latest developments on the forum, I'm sad to announce that one of the zombies is now officially resting in peace, carrying his own head, basking in the glory of his past achievements. Said zombie we called Arantor, and in pure retirony style, he decided to call it quits a couple of days before the anniversary. And I'd planned to show up at his door on that day and give him cookies! Well, no cookies then. Blame that good old UK craze about cookies.

And here we are. It's lonely at the top, but at least it means I get to make some hard decisions that we always postponed because we weren't sure about them. Same for Pete on his side, I'm guessing, albeit with other projects. I'm hoping we'll still see him pop up from time to time, and share his disbelief about how badly I handled the project. I always appreciate constructive criticism, after all.

Now, here's the point I wanted to address. There you go, Pete's state of mind up to this point was that we had no plans to release Wedge in the near future, that we didn't even have a tentative release date, and that it was even unlikely to ever happen. I understand his position, I'm not going to put the blame on anything; fact is, yes we slowly drifted apart as collaborators in the last couple of years, mostly because of real life issues for each of us, and because the weight of the project started to get very heavy year after year. The longer you wait until release, the more pressure you put on yourself to make it worthy of the wait.

And this is my first decision.

I'm putting Wedge on the road it should never have left: the road to release. Not the road to completion, which is a different thing altogether. With such a huge project, one man alone just can't complete the project. At most, he can do 80% of it, but he has to rely on other people to do the rest, simply because there are always some tasks where you know that other people will do a better job; that's what kept Pete and I together for so long, and I was hoping it would remain that way, because we really were complementary on most points. Working alone is not easy. Some days, you just want to say "screw Wedge!", and watch a movie or a TV show for hours. And you know what? I'll do just that. I've seen tons of silly and better movies, and I'm still going back to Wedge every day, because if there's something I'll never, ever give up before it's out for the public to enjoy, it's Wedge. Even if it doesn't bring me a dime, I need to finish it.

So, what's the tentative release date? Nope, sorry... There still isn't any. And before you ask why -- ask yourself whether you prefer to be given a wrong release date, or be told exactly what remains to be done to have a releasable product. To the former, I'll just say this: I'm hoping to release a public beta before the end of the year, and a final 1.0 in early 2014. Do what you want with that silly date, and if you're in too much of a hurry, and you consider yourself to be a hardened, hardboiled, hardcore, hard-wired forum administrator with a taste for trouble and a love for HTML/JS/CSS/PHP/FTP tweaks, you can always contact me with a request for private beta access and a copy of the SMF importer code.

To the latter, I'll be more thorough. First, I'll try to list a few of the things I wanted to do since day one, and will probably not do in the first release... Aeva Media is a monster to handle, it used to be my full-time (unpaid) job. I wanted to redo so many parts of it. Most importantly, I wanted to replacement attachments with media items; I'm still planning to do it, but if it's not done when everything else is ready, I'll still release. Also, features... I wrote many features for my personal website around 2007-2008, and was adamant I'd include them. Pete persuaded me otherwise, for very good reasons mainly, but now that he's gone, I can decide, if I want, to fail in a spectacular fasion. Go get the pop-corn. Again: if it's not ready when the rest is, I'll still release.

And now, for the features that I can't see myself release without.

- Privacy (estimated amount of work: a few weeks) : there are already some privacy features in; thoughts have privacy. Topics have some sort of privacy. I'm hoping I can do board privacy, à la Noisen, and profile privacy, à la Facebook. And fix an annoying bug in the 'Contacts' option: if you post a thought for your contact list, and someone replies to it, and you're not in their contact list, then you won't be able to view their reply. To be honest, I've thought of several solutions for that, but it's hardly anything solid, or at least efficient.

- Contact lists (a few weeks): so far, Wedge has been using SMF buddy lists, while Noisen has been using a customized version of Ultimate Profile (a nice little SMF mod from back in the day), where I allowed you to 'hide' a contact from view, and nice little things like that. Contact lists are my biggest project right now, I've already started work on them, but still need to write the UI, and some other things, to make them usable. The idea is that you can categorize your friends into multiple lists, choose the list name, and even determine the visibility of said list to profile viewers; you should be able to add people to multiple lists, and target a thought/topic privacy to a specific list. (Not multiple lists -- it's already complicated as it is, UI-wise.) My biggest issue right now, is handling the aftermath of adding someone to a list. Should they be notified of it? Should a list have a setting to determine if notifications should be issued? Et cetera, et cetera...

- Skins (a few weeks?): there are two things here.

(1) I'm not sure whether I should enforce sub-skins to be put inside a parent skin's folder (which I always found to be a natural thing to do), or simply require them to specify the name of their parent (author:skin_name) in a skin option. The latter option would allow skins to have folders for images, templates, etc. without the need for a different folder naming scheme, such as adding an underscore (_) before the name of any folder that isn't a sub-skin.

(2) As I discussed recently in the Friends board, I'm very, very tempted to remove themes from Wedge entirely. Just like Pete removed SMF packages when he finished his implementation of plugins, I'm in a similar situation where my skin system can do 99% of what templates can do, and it's just tempting to say, "themers have to re-learn mostly everything anyway, so I might as well get rid of that relic." Recently, I implemented one of the last things missing from skin features -- the ability to override/before/after a template function from within a skin.xml file. It was already possible to override a function through the use of a Custom.template.php file inside the skin, but it's not a rock solid solution because of the possibility of conflicting function names, and I only added this as a way for themers to 'test' their replacement code in a comfortable PHP editing environment, before they simply move their functions to an XML editing environment, without the proper syntax highlighting.

- AeMe comments (a week?): I'm planning to remove them entirely, and replace them with regular board topics. The idea is to create a generic board (hidden or not), where topics are created on the fly when posting a comment to an album or a media item. The advantage is that you get to comment on whole albums as well, and that you can search inside media item comments. The drawback is that I'm not planning to write an import tool for existing comments. They'll either have to go, or Thorsten (@TE) will have to account for them in his fantastic OpenImporter tool. Oh yes, and another drawback-- I'll have to handle attempts to access a media comment topic directly, by redirecting to said media item (or album). I don't know how I can do it efficiently, though.

- Others (weeks? months?): There are, I'm afraid, many other things that I'll attempt to fix before I go public, but none of these should be as big as the aforementioned items. When added up, though, they will probably take more time than them to complete, and there's always the tiny issue that my to-do list always seems to grow twice faster than I can shorten it. I'll have to pick a time when I figure that, well, it's okay Nao, it's okay... You can release.

With great power, comes gr... Oh no, not that Spider-Man crap again. But still, Wedge is an important project, one that could bring a nice breath of fresh air to the forum world, and even to the CMS world. As in, "community management system", not "content". I'm devoted to making Wedge a great, fun way to communicate with people, be they your friends or ephemeral guests, and help them feel at home and find the answers they seek.

And if it works, then maybe, in some way, it wiil also be the answer I've been looking for.
Get to work, Nao... Now!

Re: The zombie strikes back
« Reply #1, on September 18th, 2013, 11:27 AM »
Nice to see a bit of a roadmap ;)

Replacing AeMe comments sounds interesting. Perhaps your solution should be extendet as a plugin, so that it is possible to put this to alsmost everything you want (e.g. static content).
Imagine the power? ;)

Re: The zombie strikes back
« Reply #2, on September 18th, 2013, 12:22 PM »
Hmm... Good idea. Dunno if I can do it, though! A long time ago, I wanted to do that-- floating topics, that's a topic somewhere in the Features board. I never got around to making it...
I can, however, postpone that to Wedge 1.1 or something, without any particular issues. I mean, it won't require any big rewrites that will break everything horribly.

Re: The zombie strikes back
« Reply #3, on September 18th, 2013, 12:40 PM »
Quote from Nao on September 18th, 2013, 12:22 PM
Hmm... Good idea. Dunno if I can do it, though! A long time ago, I wanted to do that-- floating topics, that's a topic somewhere in the Features board. I never got around to making it...
I can, however, postpone that to Wedge 1.1 or something, without any particular issues. I mean, it won't require any big rewrites that will break everything horribly.
Found it: 8-)

I'm really excited about this idea!

Re: The zombie strikes back
« Reply #4, on October 23rd, 2013, 12:12 PM »
Thanks for the heads up on progress Nao.
I am sorry to read about the *parting*.
Crack on lad

Re: The zombie strikes back
« Reply #5, on October 23rd, 2013, 02:18 PM »
Not as sorry as I am ;)

Welcome back, BTW!

Also, regarding the first post, a quick update for those who aren't following:
- Privacy: code is now well underway...
- Contact lists: finished first phases of implementation; waiting to finish the Privacy overhaul (about half done) until I can resume.
- The rest: named stuff isn't started yet, while unnamed stuff is, obviously.

Plus, I need to add the fact that Wedge development will now be git-powered, which should help bring new life to the codebase. I've finally gotten the hang of it, but I'm unsure I'll ever be able to restore revision numbers for commits, and that's... just sad, well. But it doesn't really matter to the common man, the only place where it matters right now is in the footer, and I can use dates instead of rev numbers, obviously... Which is what I'll be doing from now on, I guess...!