Sunday, February 28, 2010

Latest Update - Weight Loss Profiles

The Short and Sweet:

What a whirl wind of development! I was faced with either redesigning the Calorie Counter and Exercise pages or putting together Profile Pages. I am actually right in the middle of developing another site:, of which profiles at this point are logical, so I decided to incorporate that system into this site. And I am VERY happy with the results.

So in addition to rebuilding the existing profile section I decided to add in a couple other systems to help augment the existing ones. Read on!

New Features - Updates - Changes

New Profile Pages:
If you have not yet had a chance to check yours out, you can see mine here:
Matthews Profile

To edit your profile:
Profile SetUp

Editing your profile should be pretty easy and straight forward. You have MANY options to choose from of what to display and what not to. I did my best to migrate everyone’s existing account information (Bio/FavMusic/OtherInfo).

I also increased the size of your Profile Picture. To get the new size you will have to upload your profile picture again.

I wanted to talk about some of the design decisions I had to make when building this new feature.

Some of the issues were:
*Privacy Settings. How they would work and how many settings to have
*Deciding on what can be displayed, initially and for existing accounts
*Whether to include an option to display your latest Daily Journal Entry.
*Allowing posted comments on people’s profiles

Privacy Settings:
You have three options:

1. Public: Displays anything that is either enabled or filled out.

2. Private: Sets everything except your Name and Picture to private.
Depending on what is enabled and filled out, your profile will still be viewable by YOU but private to everyone else

3. Support Group Only: Your profile will only be viewable by your Support Group and yourself. Everyone else will see your profile as private

Modules Options:
These options are either enabled by check a box or by entering text. So if your “My Story” is left blank, it will not be show in your profile. The same goes for any text box you see in your “Profile Setup” page.

Currently you have the option of enabling or disabling eight different modules. Those options include:
• Recent Forum Posts
• Recent Comments
• Weight Loss Chart
• Profile Comments
• Personal Information
• Your Daily Journal
• Weight Loss Ticker
• Recent Foods & Exercises

Now trying to figure out what modules to have enabled when creating a new account and migrating existing accounts took some thinking. I decided on setting everyone’s profile to Public *modified.
This means all the more personal modules will not be enabled (Weight Loss Chart, Personal Information, Daily Journal, Profile Comments) while the less personal and very blank items will be enabled.

The Daily Journal Module:
Yes this is now available to be displayed if you choose to. When I first created this feature it was meant to be something personal, something just for you. But the problem is that no one used this feature. Things like this in the development world are usually thrown out and not supported. But I decided to rework it. I really wanted to build a Blog module, but that in its self would be a huge undertaking. Maybe one day.

So now your Daily Journal is a way for you to share your latest thoughts and experiences with the community. Unfortunately with the new system I had to wipe all existing journal entries from the Database.

Profile Comments:
Not to be confused with ‘My Recent Comments’, profile comments allow other registered users to post comments in your profile. This feature comes disabled, so to use it you will have to enable it.

About moderation. I have been around long enough to know there are some real mean people out there, with nothing better to do but cause trouble. I call these people trolls. So to help combat these trolls, every user in their own profile will have the option of deleting comments. This is to help with moderation. Expect more moderation tools in the near future.

Other Features Upgraded and Rebuilt
These profiles were a much larger project than I ever imagined, and really pushed my skills to the limit. I had to rebuild and rework many existing systems. One we talked about already was the Daily Journal System, here are a few others:

I use an open source forum software called YAF. It has worked great so far, but the problem is that because I received it as a whole package it is hard to modify. The problem is that this forum package acts like a mini web site in its own right, including its own version of a Profile Page. How confusing is that?!?! So I was able to get into the guts of this thing and modify it so that when you click on someone’s name it will now take you to that persons Calorie Counter profile and not a forum profile.

Weight Loss Chart:
Because the chart is a little smaller on your profile page, and for users that have been dieting for a while, I reworked the way it is built. These new rules apply to the chart on your Weigh In Page.

The chart format will now change based on how many times you have weighed in:
o If more than 10, Dates will be displayed vertically
o If more than 30, Dates on the X-Axis will shrink
o If more than 30 entries are detected, beginning with your Diet Start date, every other weigh in date in addition to your last weigh in will be displayed, essentially cutting the chart in half.

We have been online for about six months now and we actually have had members dieting that long. With six months worth of weigh ins the chart starts to really get cluttered. I’ll keep an eye on this as I am sure some of our more dedicated members are really going to push this chart to its limit and if that happens Ill expand it again.

Going Further with Profiles...
Support Group and Friend System/Expansion
This is just the beginning and depending on popularity I will expand this system even further. There were many systems I wanted to implement with this profile system but just did not have time. I want to add a “Friends” Module, in addition for a way to ask to be invited into a Support Group.

Those are really important and usually come standard with any website today that incorporates any kind of social networking or profile system.

But those modules mean we have to have to have some kind of private messaging system, which is a whole other beast in itself.
-How to control spam?
-How exactly does someone ask to be invited to a support group, how to answer that request and who in the support group gets the final say?
-Spam requests for friends

I have played around with MySpace and the one thing that always annoyed me were the obscene friend requests I was always getting. I never ever want to build a system that replicates that. Ever.

So depending on existing and future popularity I may or may not add these functions.

Privacy Changes:
Because of the New Profile Pages, and the new Account Deletion tool I had to update our existing Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy

Account Deletions:
A few users have asked if I could delete their accounts since they decided to move on. I am totally fine with this, but thought I should make it so that Users can delete their own accounts.

When you delete your account, your account is actually set inactive. The reasoning is to help resolve disputes, enforce our user agreements, and due to technical and legal requirements and constraints related to the security, integrity and operation of this site. Your pictures and tickers will be erased. All forum posts, added content and comments will remain. Your profile pictures and tickers being replaced with generic pictures and tickers.

And just to be extra clear, once your account has been deleted, there is no going back. Your old user name can never be used again on this site.

The Future:

With the new profile addition, the screen is getting cluttered with links. The problem is that the site has grown so fast, I have had no where to place them. This is leading to the next big site addition/revisions.

This will result in some major site design changes, one which will include taking out the left hand side bar and finding a home for those links. This also means every page will have to be redesigned to fit into the new format. This will also be a great time to redesign the layout and functionality of the Exercise and Calorie Counter pages, something I have wanted to do from launch. My Chief Art Directory, my wife ; ) is working on some nice looking tabs to replace the upper nav bar.

On my short list:
- Rebuild Site Pages
- Rebuild Calorie Counter and Exercise Log Pages
- Implement Private Messaging System
- Friends Module

If you were able to get through that wall of text and have any ideas I would love to hear them!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Moving to a new server!

Were moving to a new server platform!!

This move will:
-Increased Performance
-Scaling Options

It is currently scheduled to happen in and around 2/8/2010.

We don't anticipate any major problems, but for now we are going to disable registrations until the move is complete. There may be some down time, but hopefully it will be short.

Existing users should be unaffected.

Eekers! Well it turns out that its going to take a lot longer than I had hoped. The people I host this website with are expanding, which includes moving all there websites to a new server platform. This new technology is clashing with existing technology, everytime they try to ghost this site on the new tech it Fails, thats problem 1.

Problem 2 is that thier new support team is now in India which makes it impossible to talk with them and get any quality support. The truth, most of this is out of my hands. Its like trying to gett cable and them telling you they will come between Tuesday and Thursday, but not giving you an exact time. grrrr.

Sooo, I am thinking of just jumping ship to a whole new service (cough cough Amazon cough). Ill keep you updated