Our Class web site has been rebuilt and launched and functioning with
three zero remaining glitches I am working on: It renders at the correct width in Firefox and Chrome but narrow with tiny type in Safari.(FIXED) The green-tinted color scheme I created is missing in action in production (through present in staging).(FIXED) In Firefox there is a small gap between the top menu and the dropdown items so one has to move one's cursor quickly to get to the dropdown items. This is fine in Safari and on my staging site.(FIXED)
(For the curious geeks in our class, there were 2 configuration and yml files that somehow didn't get uploaded and 1 that had the wrong permissions out of a 161 MB codebase. Fixing it was easy. Finding the files...not so much. I just hope I found everything...)
I'm confident I will be able to fix these over the next several days. I knew I would fix them but I'm surprised I fixed them so quickly.
The URL of the rebuilt site is the same as always: https://dartmouth69.org .
The rebuild was necessary because the site we had been using since 2016 was built on a version of Drupal software that had reached end of life (EOL) and would no longer be receiving security updates, bug fixes, or enhancements. The rebuild was not a simple task. The new Drupal code base was a substantial rewrite using a number of new (and improved) components and software approaches, so this was not the usual straight forward upgrade where one uploads the changed codebase and the old content miraculously migrates into a new structure. Instead, a new site had to be designed and built, after which various tools were used to migrate the content in chunks from the old site into the new site, each time checking the accuracy of the migration, and sometimes (often at first, but less often as I learned from my mistakes) reversing the migration of a chunk, altering the migration script, and re-migrating.
It was a big challenge and took over a year, but I have learned a great deal and have enjoyed it. (That said, I don't plan to do it again if I can help it.)
The advantage of a rebuild (rather than an upgrade or refresh process) is that it affords the opportunity to redesign the site, eliminate accumulated cruft and fluff, and look for ways to better serve the Class.
Below is a summary of what I did, what I didn't (or couldn't) do, what is new, what is missing, and how you can help. I have done my best to check for errors but it is a very large site and I am sure there are things to fix. Let me know.
What's been done:
- The site was rebuilt from the bottom up, replacing Drupal 7 with a Drupal 9 framework.
- A new 'skin' was created, maintaining our green theme but with more contrast and larger print out of respect for our aging eyes. (Except that the configuration for the color scheme did not survive the process of deploying the development site. Working on that.) I replaced the Reunion50 logo with a basic '69' logo, but if there are graphic designers in our class with time on their hands, I would welcome more artistic contributions.
- If you want to see what the color scheme is supposed to look like, my 'staging site' where I tested things and everything worked is http://poohsplayground.net/
- I added a system of 'tagging' to most content in order to allow users to find things. At the bottom of most posts you will see tags like Reunion50, philanthropy, our adopted classmates, Class Connections, or Homecoming. Clicking on these tags will bring up a list of other content with the same tag.
- I built sections that aggregate some topics, including Connections, Reunion50, the adopted women, class philanthropy...I rebuilt the alphabetic and chronologic list of our (132) deceased classmates. In the process I found some missing obituaries and photos and added them, and corrected some errors, mostly minor but errors in an obituary are distressing to all.
- I added two small slide shows. As a class we have a collection of well over 5000 photos in a gallery maintained on SmugMug. The Photos page has a list of links to our galleries.
- I added a section I called 'Obiter dicta...' (Latin for incidentally said) as a place to post essays or other submissions from classmates. At the moment, it is nearly empty. I am sure our Class can make it something we all enjoy.
What I didn't or couldn't do:
- I couldn't migrate users with their passwords. While this is technically feasible, the way passwords are securely encrypted and stored makes it quite a challenge. Since very little on our site requires logging in and all the content is viewable to the anonymous unlogged user. The system logs indicate that logins from classmates were exceedingly rare. Registering with the site to obtain a username and password is ONLY necessary for classmates who wish to be able to add comments to posts. It is easy to register, and I am able to help if anyone has a problem.
- The tools used in the old site to allow registered users to 'subscribe' to a post or topic and receive email notification of new material on the site were deprecated for legitimate security reasons. I can (probably) add this functionality in the future if enough classmates express an interest. (Note: There is an RSS link for the front page and almost all new content appears on the front page when published, so subscribing to the front page with RSS is a way to be notified of new content. I haven't tested this on the new site. For those unfamiliar with RSS subscriptions, here is some basic information. I use Newsblur.)
- I chose not to create a Forum for threaded and archived classmate discussions. I am personally a fan of the Forum approach, but my several attempts to engage the Class in this approach were...(checks notes and scars)...not met with enthusiasm. It would not be hard to add a Forum if classmates want - but posting to a forum WOULD require registering with the site and logging in before posting.
- The posts and photo galleries basically start when I re-engaged with the Class at our 25th Reunion, so there is very little material older than that. (I was one of those missing classmates for 25 years!)
- A subscription or notification system (as noted above).
What I would like: MORE CONTENT!
- We are at that time of our lives when many of us are trying to simplify our lives and get rid of cruft. While you are going through closets and drawers and boxes looking for things to discard, keep an eye out for Dartmouth things that might be of interest to your classmates: photos, memorabilia, documents. Scan them or photograph them and send the e-documents to me.
- Stories: write something about your time at Dartmouth or your times since Dartmouth.
- Photos: surely, some of you have photos from Reunions and Homecomings before our 25th? Or from our undergraduate days?
- If any among you would like to write a regular (or irregular) column relevant to our Class, let me know - I can set you up as a 'contributor' able to post to the site.
Your very tired webmaster...