Improbable Island Message of the Day (MoTD)

New Monthly Memento, more beta skin updates
Staff2021-05-04 20:07:24 [Permalink]
Edit 2021-05-04 20:00 UTC: "Pub" beta skin variant added, probably the first of several. Original MotD follows.

Hey folks, the Monthly Memento for May is the Itchy Insulation, because fuck, that's what I'm doing. Since Nerv was born the old office is her room, and Improbable HQ moved upstairs to an attic room - last summer I couldn't work up here after around 2pm because the temperature would creep into the 40's, breaking monitors and being generally intolerably hot, so I decided to redo the attic insulation. I'm only about two thirds done but it's already having an effect - we had the first 30-degree day of the springsummer last week, and it was only slightly warmer upstairs than down, so hooray, more time to make y'all cool stuff. Itchy Insulation gives you a substantial stamina cost reduction buff to all actions, at the expense of an experience debuff. Pls give lots of tenners, insulation ain't cheap.

I've got some updates for you on the new beta skin! If you click on "Check new skin features" from an Outpost, you'll be taken to a new page that shows off a couple neat features. In the past week or so I've added Sunset and Daytime Plains variants (Daytime Plains looked really goofy the first night, if it still seems overly bright please CTRL-F5) and made some scaling adjustments to all the variants. I've also expanded the display menu to include line spacing adjustment, an extra margin on the right, and even a recreation of the old Vertical layout in the beta skin!

If you've been on the beta skin and doing the occasional CTRL-F5 lately (CTRL-F5 overrides your cache, reloading all the CSS and javascript etc) you'll have noticed things changing as I work on them. How it usually goes is I'll work on a thing throughout the day, test it on my local machine, upload it around 21:00 or 22:00 UTC, and stick around for a chat and see what y'all think before making dinner. This way you get to see my fuckups and works-in-progress as well as the good stuff, and we can talk about them as they go online and do a bit of live fiddling, which is kind of how a beta is supposed to work. I enjoy these chats and I think they've been helpful.

I've been thinking a lot about interface changes lately, when it's appropriate for a site to do a major interface overhaul (hardly ever) and how fraught it can be. Bigger sites than this one have vapourized practically overnight because of messing around with the interface. I've been a webmaster for so long that I still use the word "webmaster," and I've seen it done badly many, many times - I'm paying close attention to Ravelry, Digg, Reddit etc and making lists of how not to do interface overhauls. In comparison, ours is going really well.

I think a thing that helps is that the new skin has a killer feature, namely dynamic context-based background changes, that wouldn't be possible in the old skin. And because this feature is so open-ended, it's taking a lot of fiddling and adjusting and you all get to see the new stuff and give me ideas as I make it, so the transition is softer and there's more of a sense of curiosity about what's next than there would be if I just straight-up switched you all over to a completely different look overnight.

Furthermore, all the cool features of the new skin - the dynamic backgrounds, the programmable trees, moon phases and positioning etc, whatever other neato stuff we end up adding in the near future - all that stuff is going to be integrated into Places programming, so Place owners are getting really excited about giving their forests and caverns and night scenes that extra sense of space. I'm working on some interior scenes too, pubs and stuff, perhaps with dynamic lighting. There are a lot of possibilities!

It's all adding up to an interface change that feels humane, so thanks everyone for giving me ideas and feedback and suggestions and helping me sand down the rough edges as we go.

If you haven't tried the beta skin yet, the "Check new skin features" nav in any Outpost will give you the option to take it for a test drive.

The "Check new skin features" nav talks about the last-few-days-new stuff in more detail than this MotD, because it seemed an appropriate place to talk about things that you could play with while reading about them. I haven't been doing many MotD's lately because the skin development has felt really fluid and things are constantly altering, so I was basically choosing between an MotD every night and no MotD's at all, and I chose poorly. I'll try to be better about actually announcing the changes formally, rather than just shouting them into Banter and trusting that whoever's there at the time will kinda pass the news along.

Have fun,

~CMJ
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