Early dooce® v6 Nerd FAQ

This will be a quick post, as we’re still watching the server and making sure things are working. Bear with us while we make the transition. I hope to answer some questions about the new dooce® redesign that we’re getting from readers from the geek side of things.

Why Drupal?
The site needed a robust framework that could handle a diverse and changing set of criteria. We could have gone any number of ways, but making the switch from a primarily static page site to a dynamic one steered us quickly towards Drupal. It’s open source and has the flexibility we were looking for. There are a lot of great platforms out there, but I had been watching a handful up close, including Drupal, for several years. It seems that in the last couple of years, Drupal has had a ton of work done on it, to it and with it. The development community around it solves similar problems to those we have in terms of server nerdery with dooce.com. Again, any number of solutions would have worked, Drupal seemed the best fit after a few years of watching different systems morph, rise and fall.

Did you have help?
Oh yes we did. Heather did the design comps, I did the first rounds of CSS and slicing and added a couple of small touches that Heather art directed and we hired some awesome developers. We needed help with theming in Drupal (it’s notorious for being cranky) and after seeing Merlin Mann launch 43folders on Drupal, we used a couple of the same folks because we were tackling similar issues; database migration, theming and caching. I can’t speak highly enough of the 43folders redesign and how inspirational it was in the decision to migrate platforms.

On the theming front, we hired RoopleTheme who steered us through some challenges (new content types and templates for Daily Chuck, Daily Photo and Daily Style) as well as did the backbreaking work of taking my HTML/CSS work and getting it to function inside of Drupal. Bill from Roople also had some tricks up his sleeve with using Drupal’s blocks and modules. Really tasty. The second need was to migrate our Movable Type MySQL database into something Drupal could use as well as set up a testing server and move stuff from there to the live site. We also needed some help with caching and some custom module work for functionality and found a great help in Ben Durbin, who made last night’s launch the easiest ever. There’s no way Heather and I could have pulled this off without these guys. Ben is one of those maddeningly awesome people who can answer obtuse questions from weird people with ease. I am not sure I possess either the technical knowledge or the verbal prowess to describe the tech mastery he pulled off, but if I was really rich I’d pay him loads of money to make stuff every day. Hire both of these people immediately.

Have you noticed huge issues moving from static pages to dynamic?
Drupal’s caching mechanisms as well as server setup have yielded a slightly bigger bump in server usage, but nothing like I thought we’d see. Opening comments will be the real test.

Where’s the feed?
Working on it. Will likely be live tonight. You can re-subscribe if you want, but we’ll be doing a redirect later that should keep your subscription intact. Just be patient.

Where are the Next/Previous links?
Coming. Heather and I had to have a talk about how people use them. There was discussion about moving through categories versus moving through content. Given the work that was done to aggregate all of the old content and blog settings, we were unclear about how they should function. Your emails have helped us decide the direction to go. I’d love to have them live tonight, but not sure if it’s something we can get to given some other issues that need addressing. Hold tight for them, they are coming.

You should have used [insert favorite CMS]
Perhaps. Perhaps. So far, so good. Very happy with our choice and wish no other vendors anything but success. Keep on making great software. People are always looking for better, easier and faster. The Onion uses Drupal as does Avril Lavigne. What really matters is making Heather’s awesome content easier to read and easier to find and read.

I am now going to explode.

  • http://www.ransom-note-typography.com/ jon deal

    Oh, you did NOT just go to Avril Lavigne as a reason to use drupal.

    Yeah, that’s a paddling.

  • Kristen from MA

    I don’t know WHAT the hell you are talking about (Drupal?), but it looks really nice. :)

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/filmgoerjuan/ filmgoerjuan

    As long as Avril’s song “Complicated” wasn’t about her trying to set up Drupal, you should be all right.

    Congratulations on the relaunch!

  • http://www.iprettymuchhateeverything.com Torrie

    Most of this post was WAY over my head (which holds my teeny-tiny brain).

    I do have a question though-

    Are you not selling T-shirts anymore?

  • http://bigpikchur.blogspot.com Jules

    Avril? Lavigne? Total doocebag. :)

    You guys have done a great job on the new site. Lovin’ it.
    Jules
    House of Jules

  • http://www.birdwellproductions.com Birdy

    Wow–my head just exploded. Fantastic!

  • http://log.davedot.com/ Dave Vogt

    I was a bit surprised when I took a quick peek at the code and saw you were using Drupal. It wouldn’t have been my guess for your switch, but I’m glad it’s working out well. Super sexy from this end.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/nieblung Brian

    I really like the new site and “feel” that you guys are trying to accomplish. As with any new design, there is always some sort of “punch-list.” I just have one quick question:

    Since the new daily photos are larger, are you guys worried about someone “Right-Click-Save-As” and stealing your photos? I know that everything on Dooce.com has some sort of copyright, but I was just wondering how you keep copyright infringement to a minimum.

  • http://verygeorge.com GEORGE!

    I love Avril. So glad you’re using the same CMS as her.

  • http://fiddley.com Pete Dunn

    I have come to love Drupal after wanting to kill myself over it.

  • Jay

    Be warned: Drupal is incredibly poor at handling a large number of modules. Your PHP memory usage will go through the roof if you enable too many. Also avoid CCK and Views at all costs if you value efficiency in your database interactions.

    Drupal caching is really only useful for non-logged in users. Commenting will present some problems, especially if you’ve made any of the above mistakes.

    Keep us posted. :-)

  • http://blurbomat.com/wordpress blurb

    @Jay, I’ve been watching the server pretty much constantly since Heather turned on comments here. So far, so good. I can’t entirely blame Movable Type’s comment performance based on the old dooce design, because I had added a bunch of logic. I do think there may have been some architectural issues, but those may have been negated by subsequent Movable Type versions. We stayed at 3.2.

    Given the traffic surge today with the addition of comments, I’d give Drupal outstanding marks. But I’d chalk that up to what Bill and Ben did behind the scenes.

  • http://www.catsaremyfave.blogspot.com Amy

    Bill and Ben the flowerpot men!
    Seriously, reading this post, was a whole lot of jargon I didn’t understand, but you know what, the passion that goes behind it speaks for itself. Good stuff!

  • Doug

    The site looks great! I was very surprised that you went with Drupal. I had a hell of a time with it but that was a while ago and I didn’t have much help. Good job.

  • jill

    Just to let you know the RSS is still working fine (on Google Reader), I haven’t needed to resubscribe. Only thing is it has re-supplied a couple of posts as unread. No probs.

  • http://www.allnewcomics.com Brian G

    Well done indeed! I’ve been looking at Drupal for a while and just installed it last week on a test server to see if it will be better than the home baked CMS that a buddy and I cooked up years ago for clients.

    So far the extensibility and developer community are what have me sold on it. Rumours on the Drupal boards are that Digg was built off of a Drupal framework.

    Congrats on the relaunch, now get some rest, I’m sure you’re exhausted.

  • kidsmom

    Huh?

  • http://cowjumpmoon.blogspot.com Shalini

    the site is awesome. Very impressed!

  • http://handelaar.org John Handelaar

    Ahoy. Tasty theme work there.

    Unpleasantness *can* sometimes happen when you throw a ton of traffic at Drupal and have comments enabled. (MyISAM is the default MySQL storage engine. It would very much not be suitable for you under commenting load.)

    If you find yourself hitting a wall, and MySQL storage engines or RAM caches or non-Apache web servers aren’t things you’re comfortable with, and you don’t already have that covered… feel free to mail me.

    The simultaneously-good-and-bad news would be that if you’re going to run into problems, it’ll either not happen for several months, or it’ll happen almost immediately. Nothing in between.

    Again, congrats. Nice work all round, this one.

  • http://tff4.com Tom

    Negative, schmegative… The internet’s like an asshole, everyone’s got one… Wait, that’s not how that saying goes. Anywho, people who say “you should’ve done X” or “X sucks” probably don’t have an ounce of a clue what it took for you guys to get the new Dooce rolling seamlessly. These same people probably would’ve been screaming their inter-heads off if Dooce had experience any significant downtime.

    And anyway, try to find solace in the fact that the people who really DO like the redesign are less likely to speak up (http://www.stuntbox.com/blog/2007/10/i-hate-you-i-love-you/) So just take all those positive comments above and multiply times a gagillion.

  • http://paperwhitesinseason.blogspot.com/ Magnolia_Mer

    Jon, Great job! I told Heather she owes you a massage. Go collect.

  • http://www.allnewcomics.com Brian G

    @Jay;

    CCK and Views are considered “Must Haves” by many in the Drupal community, and I’ve seen them on several “must have modules” lists, with some going as far as calling them “Holy Grails”.
    10 Drupal Modules You Can’t Live Without
    Top 10 Drupal Modules
    10 Drupal Modules You Can’t Live Without

    What are these folks missing?

  • bluestar

    I don’t know anything about Drupal or all that other stuff you wrote, so this won’t be a particularly technical review of the new site, but I have to say….nice!

    I saw it at work on my desktop first and it doesn’t fit in my whole screen, I had to scroll side to side to get the whole thing. I was kind of bummed about that (again, I’m not that savvy, so maybe there’s something I can do to fix that myself) but then I got home and checked it out on my macbook and daaaaaamn, it’s so nice when it all fits on the screen!! I love it.

  • http://www.intuitivedesigns.net Naomi

    You did a great job. I can only imagine how much work that must have been. I found Drupal hard to control initially, but it really is a powerful system. The themes are really more flexible than they appear once you get the hang of it and with the right developers, you can do just about anything to it. Kudos to you all!

  • http://www.theinsideofmylife.com theinsider

    The redesign looks great.. drupal definitely shines here.

    One question, were you planning on letting the RSS feeds pull the entire post? Don’t get me wrong, I love not having to open up a browser, but for the traffic numbers, you might want to go back to only sending out a snippet in the feed. :)

  • http://www.imeldabettinger.com imelda

    I understood what you said all above as many said they didn’t. Your sweat has totally paid off, the site is gorgeous and better organized. I will spend more time reading content on the site, rather than just from google reader! Love it! Well worth the wait!

  • Matt

    I would love to hear about all the cms/platforms you considered before choosing drupal.

  • http://blurbomat.com/wordpress blurb

    @Matt, I looked at WordPress, Textpattern, Joomla, Typo, Drupal, Ellington, Mephisto among others. Obviously, I had used later versions of Movable Type on client sites.

    @all: the old feeds should be working today.

  • Tim

    Jon,
    The new site looks great! Don’t change a thing. It rocks! So when does Chuck get his own website? :) Seriously, Dooce dot com looks fantastic!

    Tim

  • http://www.abes.sd85.bc.ca CW Petersen

    Hi,

    I like the redesign, and the fact that RoopleTheme didn’t talk you into tables for layout. 8^)

    I’m (a small) part of the way through a Drupal site build, trying to grok the php code for theming and what makes what show up and where. It’s moving ahead slowly, and I think it’ll be good when done, but my there’s a learning curve. And soon the next major version will be upon us, with yet more learning.

    Great work, and an inspiration. Applause.

    CW

  • Michele

    The Dooce site is lovely. Nice job to all.

  • http://blog.tiekenei.be Sara

    I believe there’s an issue with the fonts, but that’s easily fixed (the font-family thing): http://www.maratz.com/blog/archives/2006/10/23/ie-7-quirks-round-one/

    An example of how it looks like:

    http://tinyurl.com/33bwtn and http://tinyurl.com/2sob22

  • Brid

    ha ha, I love that I have no idea what you were talking about but you managed to make me hang onto every single word. Way to rock the geekery.

  • Whiskas

    [deleted for douchebaggery and cowardice.]

  • http://kitt.hodsden.org/ kitt

    I commented on dooce’s blog, but it’ll probably be lost in the avalanche of comments. There’s an Akismet module http://akismet.com/ for comment spam http://drupal.org/project/akismet if the captcha part becomes annoying.

    Fantastic to see another high profile website switch to Drupal. Yay, Drupal! And, yay, Jon! :)

  • http://www.kimblahg.com kimblahg

    Jon- One teensy weensy thing. I can no longer read the posts on my cell phone’s browser. I often check dooce from my phone so I’m a bit sad. It could have something to do with my Sprint web browser though.

  • Bill

    Shoulda used FrontPage.

    Thankyew, I’m here all week, tip your waitresses!

  • http://www.allconsuming.blogspot.com kim at allconsuming

    There is some sort of Dr Seuss book in there about Rooples in your Drupals but just reading what is involved in getting the site to look as awesome as it does has made my ears bleed. From one itty-bitty reader in Aus, I think it’s rockin’.

  • Dylan

    Jon- Dooce looks awesome! I love the technical side write up, it explains so much of what you had to overcome. I am very interested, and going to have to go play with Drupal, as my company just bought Ektron as a CMS; and it’s been quite the learning experience. Hope all the big hurdles have been crossed in this huge site renovation.

  • http://www.thepaul.com ThePaul

    The new site looks great and I think that Drupal was a good choice. I was wondering if you guys plan on leveraging Drupal’s user management/community building tools to make Dooce.com a more interactive experience for the readers? Obviously opening up the comments is a step in this direction.

  • apurva

    great new look to dooce!

  • http://suzannerenfrow.blogspot.com Suzanne

    Bravo on the migration! You did your homework and from our (collectively, “the internet”) point of view, pulled it off flawlessly. Excellent.

  • http://chrisglass.com Glass

    Indeed, the new site (design, new features and content) is awesome.

    And I concur that Bill over at RoopleTheme and Ben Durbin rock hard. They made my tiny slice of Drupal experience wonderful.

  • http://www.xanga.com/retroactivegirl Loreli

    I didn’t understand a word of it, but I BELIEVE. I especially like how you speak highly of your wife’s “awesome content.” Beautiful.

  • http://timothytipton.com Tim Tipton

    Jon – when are going to move blurbomat to Drupal?

  • http://www.workwithjob.com Tyler
  • http://www.yesnomaeb.typepad.com Mae

    Okay, I already wrote Heather re the change but oh heck, I might as well go right to the source!
    I don’t know computer programming gooblygook. What I do know, is that I like visiting Dooce almost daily. But now I can’t read it. The font in the posts is too small and sort of blurryish but, really just ridiculously small. The font on the Google ads are at least two, maybe three times bigger. I simply will not be able to continue visiting this site without a change in the font! Otherwise, the site looks great but PLEASE ENLARGE THAT FONT. Please and thankyou.

  • Tim

    Mae, (and anyone else who has trouble reading small fonts)

    Hold down the control key while pressing the + key to expand the text. That should fix your problem. The minus key does the opposite.

    Jon,

    Drupal’s a good choice if you decide to go the CMS route, but be careful, it can run slow ’cause its PHP. Caching is key–if you decide to learn any aspect of the system, learn caching.

  • Janie

    I think the font size is fine…as Tim said, you can make it larger as needed. But I do think the font on the black section at the very end of the page…with the most recent archives…needs to have a whiter or brighter font for more contrast. The gray is lovely and tasteful but some of us have 48 year old eyes and need contrast LOL.

    I didn’t understand anything you wrote, Jon, but I love how excited you sound about it. and how lovely you talk about Heather. (Eh…obviously I’m just here for the love, the laughter, and Leta!)
    And to Heather, it looks very striking…LOVE the ‘Dooce’ logo. Again though, in my opinion the white on black could use a bit more contrast there too. (Probably just that I don’t have a huge monitor and spanking new computer though, huh? And old eyes, very old eyes.)

  • http://flubberwinkle.blogspot.com/ Flubberwinkle

    Love Dooce’s new site. Great job.
    Drupal is an excellent CMS (yeah! open-source software).

    I think Heather should take you to a spa and pamper you after all that hard work.

    p.s. Loved the purple-black theme and new addition of daily style. You guys rock the blogosphere.

  • http://www.spamboy.com/ Spamboy

    After going through the headache of migrating my own site from Movable Type to WordPress last February, with a redesign thrown in, I completely sympathize with the sweaty armpits that Heather alluded to. Good job getting it done so smoothly.

  • http://www.lvrealty.net Charles

    We just moved to Drupal and so far I absolutely love it.

  • http://www.digitalpretzel.com fred

    it looks great. awesome job.

  • http://www.porkcracklins.com Sheri

    Looks great. I’m sad that I can’t use an RSS reader to access the Daily Chuck, though.

  • http://blurbomat.com/wordpress blurb

    @Sheri, that’s coming, I promise. We’re having some issues with the feeds. If you hit the link at the bottom of the page on dooce.com, that lets you know when the Daily Photo, Daily Chuck and Daily Style have been updated, but does not yet include a thumbnail (also coming soon).