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Archive for the ‘Administrative’ Category

Test Posts

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One of HalfEagle.com’s sources was doing some testing with using Flickr to post images today. Unfortunately, HalfEagle.com wasn’t quite smart enough to tell the difference between a real post that should be displayed and a test post that should be ignored.

Now, HalfEagle should be a bit smarter in this regard. This post itself was a test to try out the new filters. How did this post slip by them? Well, in case the filter ever makes a mistake, I can manually tell HalfEagle that a particular post should appear.

If you ever have a post that doesn’t show up in HalfEagle that happens to contain the words “test,” “testing,” or “test post,” please let me know and I’ll turn it back on. :)

Written by Gregg

November 10th, 2008 at 9:30 pm

Posted in Administrative

Faster & More Scouting Pictures

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I’ve moved over the fetching of new Flickr images to the new and improved caching mechanism. Originally, there were only three groups to which HalfEagle subscribed:

This was mostly because each new group slowed down the loading of the home page even further. Now that HalfEagle uses the new caching mechanism, it can subscribe to many more groups, and it can subscribe to overlapping groups without having duplicates of the same picture in the cache.

And these are just the groups that caught my eye for having a multitude of contributors and interesting photography. There are even more Scouting photo groups to check out. If you have any recommendations, please link to them in the comments. :)

Of course, more groups means more varied pictures. You might load up a page and only see Cub Scout pictures or International Scouting pictures. HalfEagle currently has a pretty strong bias toward Boy Scouts of America at the moment.

If there were a way for you to indicate a preference for a particular area of interest (not just for pictures, but for all the different sections), would that be something you’d use? Personally, I think it would be a neat feature every time I think of it, but I don’t think I’d ever personally use it. Tell me what you think and I’ll use your suggestions to decide how to proceed.

Written by Gregg

August 27th, 2008 at 7:10 pm

Posted in Administrative

How does HalfEagle pick it’s Scouting blogs?

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At the beginning, HalfEagle.com had to pass only one test: It had to be useful to me. After all, I’m part of the “target audience” for this site, so if I don’t even like it, why should you? And second, if I don’t want to use a site I made, I won’t be very motivated to keep it up-to-date. For the first batch of Scouting blogs, I took the RSS feeds I was already subscribed to and added them to the site.

Of course, that was a long time ago (nine months on the Internet is roughly equal to nine years in the real world). In that time many more Scouting blogs have been created. The word “blog” is pretty broad and in Scouting we have everything from SPL’s who use their blog to communicate with their troop all the way up to our Chief Scout Executive who uses his blog to help lead our national movement. (Let me save you an hour or so of online sleuthing; his blog is internal to BSA National Council.)

Since HalfEagle needs to be useful to more than just me, I’d like to discuss the criteria for adding a blog to the site. Your feedback on these guidelines is welcome and, if you think your blog meets them, then you should apply. (Details below.)

So what blogs go on HalfEagle? I look for blogs of (a) current Scouters (b) who discuss what they are doing in Scouting right now, (c) relate those stories to either past Scouting experiences or experiences outside of Scouting, (d) write their blog for an audience larger than their unit or council, and (e) always add commentary when repeating general news.

Let’s break it down:

  • current Scouters Scouting is a living, breathing, growing movement. HalfEagle is about where we are now and where we are going, not where we were 30 years ago (although that’s important, and covered in c. below).
  • who discuss what they are doing in Scouting right now Where’d you camp this month? Got pictures? Where’s your next long term camp? How are you going to get there/pay for it/maximize it?
  • relate those stories to either past Scouting experiences or experiences outside of Scouting Has Scouting always been the biggest part of your life? How’s it changed? How’s it stayed the same? What else have you done in life? How did Scouting help/hurt? How does the clergy/military/corporate America/blogosphere compare to Scouting?
  • write their blog for an audience larger than their unit or council Is your blog written to be useful or entertaining to people who don’t already know you? If most of your posts intended as announcements for your unit, district, or council, then it will be hard to justify adding your blog to HalfEagle which has a national audience.
  • always add commentary when repeating general news Everyone is excited about the new uniforms, the new merit badge books, etc. and everyone is going to blog about new happenings in the Scouting movement. But no one wants to come to HalfEagle and see 10 headlines in a row that all read “Centennial Uniform Available Today” that each have the same boiler-plate announcement. Always add your unique take on things.

Of course, these are only guidelines and they will change and evolve as the site grows. But, if you think your blog meets these guidelines, drop a comment below and I’ll check out your site. I won’t promise to add your site. But I promise to consider your site and email you an explanation privately if I choose not to include your blog.

Written by Gregg

August 18th, 2008 at 11:23 am

Posted in Administrative

Tagged with ,

HalfEagle.com updated! Faster, more colorful

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If you visit HalfEagle.com you should notice the page looks quite a bit different. I’ve just finished cleaning up a lot of the backend code associated with fetching the different blog feeds. While I was at it, I did a much needed redesign of the page.

Originally I was using sIFR to provide attractive headlines for each blog entry. Unfortunately I had to disable that because of the performance issues on the old server. Rather that turn it back on, I tried to build a good basis for an HTML only design of the page. Eventually, I’ll turn back on sIFR. Since the site itself is fast, fast, fast, a slight client side speed hit should be okay.

The best news of course is that the site is fast. There are now three different cache mechanisms to speed up the page… Caching of the source RSS feeds, a database cache, and an image cache. Flickr, Google News, and Delicious are still running off the old slow way, but the bulk of the slowdown has always been the blogs themselves.

I hope you like it! I’d love to hear your feedback on this version of the site design.

The next step for me (which I won’t get to for a week or so) is adding some features now that I have a robust backend.

Written by Gregg

August 17th, 2008 at 2:57 pm

Posted in Administrative

An apology

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I’m not much for apologies, but I definitely owe one to everyone who has stuck by HalfEagle.com. I built this site about nine months ago and have had little opportunities to improve it. That situation is improving and I’d like to share with you some of what’s going on. Thank you for sticking around. :)

The home page of HalfEagle.com has been, since it’s conception, poorly coded. I’ve yet to really optimize it in any of the ways that I have planned. It’s also suffered from being hosted on a very strained shared hosting plan. Basically HalfEagle.com was competing with thousands of other websites for a tiny bit of server power.

Considering that HalfEagle.com goes out and scours quite a few different websites to build it’s page, it needs quite a bit more server power than a lot of web sites. The good news? I’m writing this post from HalfEagle.com’s new home… a very high powered server in a very high quality datacenter. ;)

In comparing the old server to the new, I can tell the difference. The page loads in under 5 seconds now, which beats old page loads time ranging from 30 seconds to, well, “go run some errands and hopefully it won’t have timed out.”

Now that the biggest bottleneck is cleared, it’s time to do some additional housecleaning and adding some of the features I’ve been planning. Watch this space. :)

Written by Gregg

August 15th, 2008 at 8:07 pm

Posted in Administrative