Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I love it when a plan comes together

The A-Team's Hannibal might have been talking about plans involving Mr. T, explosives, and battles against gangs of evil-doers, but that feeling of elation when things work like they're supposed to is pretty nice regardless of the setting.

Our journal website seems to be working!  In fact, it's working even better than I had anticipated (I managed to trouble-shoot the issue-ordering problem so now issues are listed chronologically as they should be).  I have uploaded almost all of the old content (just a few book reviews left to go).  The site seems ready for action.  There are still a couple of details missing (e.g., I have to list the journal's associate editors and their subjects of specialization) but these are just details.  The site works!

I will announce the website very soon, after I verify a few more things are working fine.  This is a very exciting time to be associated with our journal.  And I can't help but get excited about the future prospects of natural history study in general.  I'll write more some other time about the general down (and now up I think) trends of natural history study in North America - for now I have some website work to do!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

2 steps back, 2 steps back, 2 more steps back ... the terrible polka of website programming

If I had a dartboard, I just might put a picture of the Internet on it and vent some of my frustration.  Ok, I don't know what a picture of the Internet would look like, so I guess it's not a well thought-out plan, but the point is I am frustrated with servers, software, and anything else that communicates in binary.

In my previous post I was excited about the server hosts changing things to allow me to upload articles.  Unfortunately there were other errors associated with the article meta-data (e.g., I couldn't italicize anything in the abstract, which is a big deal considering how many species' names are in our abstracts).  This is not the fault of our server host - it's just a problem I never could solve.  So instead of being able to carry on with my work setting up the journal site, I spent more time trouble-shooting.  Friendly staff associated with our server host company, the Open Journal Systems software system, and users like me (but more knowledgeable) on the software discussion forum were all very helpful, but left me realizing we needed to undo our software upgrade and start again.

So that's what we've done.  Our server host Jedis degraded (I don't know if that's the correct term, but it is the opposite of upgraded) our software back to the old version that was working fine.  And it actually seems to be working fine!  There are a couple of bugs with this software version, but they are very minor.  For example, because I'm uploading 2004 issues now (after already uploading 2008 issues), 2004 issues appear at the top of the list of issues rather than issues appearing strictly chronologically.  This is messy, but only a minor inconvenience.  The main thing is, all of the articles I had uploaded are still there ... the articles and their meta-data are preserved and online.

So, after many steps back and back and back I should be able to actually make some progress now.  And quickly too - uploading the last of the old articles is my #1 priority this week.  We will be ready to go live very soon.  I know the suspense must be killing you.  I'm really excited about the site working.

Ok, back to the other tab of my browser in which I'm uploading issues!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Slapshots, Jedis, and website problems, oh my!

Meatloaf said that two out of three ain't bad.  What about one out of four?  That's how many of the "complete before Christmas" CFN tasks I actually completed before Christmas.  I think Meatloaf would agree that one out of four is not very good.

I blame two factors for my failure:
1. That guy on the other team with the big slapshot.  I got hit with it on the inside of my ankle in mid-December and it fractured my tibia.  What's he doing playing beer-league hockey when he can actually shoot the puck well?  Ok, a fractured ankle did not inhibit my success much - I'm just bitter about it because I can't play hockey for a month or two.  The real factor causing me to not complete the other tasks was,
2. Website problems.  The one task that was completed, upgrading the journal website software, produced problems that prevented other tasks from being completed either because they required the website or they were lower priority items than fixing this new website problem.

Our friends at the server hosting service we employ upgraded our journal website software to the newest version.  They do this sort of thing very well.  I suspect they are Jedis.  I quickly logged in to see some of the new features available that improve behind-the-scenes journal management.  Cool stuff from the looks of it.  Then I tried to upload some articles (another of my tasks) only to find that I was no longer able to upload files.  No error message telling me why I couldn't upload, or any other information, just an inability to upload files.  Not good.

I tried uploading different file types - nothing worked.
I tried uploading as different users - nothing worked.
I tried drinking hot gin toddies - that worked, but the website still did not.
Time for the online help forums.

I'm no web slouch - I help colleagues create websites and do other stuff that makes me feel young and cutting-edge even if I'm neither.  But when I'm reading through forum topics on website upload problems trying to figure out how I can give a folder a permission (for example), I feel pretty dumb.  And old.  And definitely un-Jedi-like.

Our server hosting friends saved the day by changing certain folders' permissions and now the site works and I am busy uploading old articles again.  There are some issues I still need to address on the website, but at least it's functional now - catastrophe averted.  I'm looking forward to uploading articles and completing the other tasks to get this site ready to go live.  Two steps forward, one step back, all the way along.