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 Post subject: Website sorting, tidy up
PostPosted: Mon Oct 05, 2009 9:17 pm 
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I mentioned something on another thread about the size and complexity of the forest site. This is something I'd hoped to talk about at a BTS meeting sometime, but it would be better if I explain what I mean now, so there's less confusion.

I'm a fan of the new site as I think it looks a lot better than the old one, and also seems to be keeping more up to date in terms of its content. There's a lot I'd like to change, but though I've tried, it seems the workings of Drupal are sufficiently complex as to be impenetrable to anyone with less than a serious interest in learning its ins & outs. I'm not really interested in learning Drupal. Maybe I would be if I wasn't busy trying to learn C++ and Objective C, among other things. But I think because of this complexity I'm pretty much ruled out of having any serious influence over the website, and I think most others are too.

This means the site is rather less of an open, accessible project than it was probably intended to be, but that needn't be a problem as there are at least a couple of people around who do understand Drupal. (yes Milk, I'm talking mostly about you). The problem there is that whatever people think needs doing with the site, they will generally be relying on you to do it, because the rest of us don't understand how to do shit, and we don't have time to learn.

In terms of the site and what ought to be done... I've tried to avoid reeling off lists of things that I think should be sorted because I realise that isn't the way it works. I've tried to learn how to change stuff so I can do it myself, but like I said Drupal is just too complicated. But there is something really wrong with the site and I think it should be a priority to try and do something about this: The site is full of dead links, and links that go to half finished pages with images missing etc. I think this is well known, and I think the original intention was that the forest community would gather online and get on the case of sorting these issues out, adding more content and straightening out what's already there. However, I think it's pretty clear that this isn't going to happen (partly because people can't figure out how to do it and partly because folk are too busy, or just don't care).

The question is, what is going to be done about it? Trying to straighten out all the dud links and get all the content in order is just too ambitious. Let's just give up on that idea right now. And forest publishing already has it's own (really good) website - so that's one section we don't have to worry about. Hooray! Forest records also wants to sort out its own site - great! This is a Good Thing! The records people will organise all their chaos in to a coherent set of pages with music downloads, bios, radio player - whatever they want. That's how it should be: forest people doing it themselves. They obviously don't have the time or inclination to learn Drupal, and there's no reason why they should be required to.

Let's be honest. By going solo, the forest publishing site has far exceeded what could realistically be done with the publishing section on the main site. Forest records will very likely do the same. And I'm sure if TK set up their own site, it would also be a great improvement on what would otherwise be their little section among the wider forest pages. This is a simple fact. It shouldn't be taken as an insult to the forest site. It's just a fact that these aspects of forest art/artists can express themselves more effectively when freed from the confines of a defining whole. Again, this should be seen as a good thing as it reduces the burden on the forest 'main' web crew.

Forest website needs to focus on being a basic introduction to the forest. Simplification is in order. Let's get rid of the publishing section for a start, and simply redirect folk to the forpub site. Let's look forward to getting rid of the records section as well, since it has sadly become a discordant mess in the process of its porting over from the other site. Ideally, TK would also set up its own site, which obviously should be overflowing with glorious art and graphics etc. That would leave the forest site with the much simpler task of representing the forest in the sense of its aims and objectives, volunteering info, good photos etc. Some of these sections are badly in need of tidy up. They need some some decent copy written to describe what we do and make it sound like FUN, and the formatting needs to be fixed so things are laid out simply & effectively. I was looking forward to taking this on as a project for myself, but as I said, Drupal turned out to be too complicated. Maybe we need to find more people who already know Drupal, or maybe there is another answer, I don't know.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2009 3:47 am 
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i changed the Publishing menu link to forpub.com last night, and TK already has their blog, linked to from the main site.

i think you're conflating how hard it is to administrate the nuts and bolts of the backend and how hard it is to add and edit content. i've watched non-techy forest people trying the latter out a few times and seen how easy they found the basics (given a few pointers at first, for which i'm available for a tutorial session, just ask).

i think we need to encourage people responsible for promoting the aspect of the forest they're involved in to be using the site. when the second big wave of EVS came to assume various roles in the forest, the site was up and accessible, albeit not publicly. i naively assumed that the mentors, who would have known about this via my enthusiasm, would be saying to them "oh yeah, and don't forget to edit the information about the café/volunteering/events/the shop/workgroups/etc on the new website". this didn't happen. so [generally] i did a lot of time editing content myself (although there's a lot more that needs doing still) with, again, an assumption that once things went live, people would see that the there was things that were out of date, and, because it was so easy to change that, instead of posting a thread on the BB and waiting for someone with editing rights to do it, that they would make the changes as well, but that hasn't happened.

so, in my opinion, we need to change the zeitgeist of people's attitudes towards using the website. the easiest method to bootstrap this would be through telling people who take up coordinator roles that part of their responsibility and ultimately 'ownership' of their role (google "endowment effect") is to do some related web site tasks.

in the last 30 days, we've had 3,759 unique visitors to the site, 2,269 (60.36%) have been from Edinburgh alone. this is massively more local eyeballs than those who see the printed programme or that come in to look at the blackboard or posters to see what's happening.

i'm not going to try harangue individuals into getting this any more than i have done already. ultimately what we really need is for everyone who has an influence in the forest to realise there has to be some factor of thought put into care for the promotional wellbeing of the organisation in all mediums available to us.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2009 9:40 am 
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WOW the website looks fantastic guys :!:


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2009 1:59 pm 
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Ok, so, what's working about the new site:

* Basic introduction to the forest. Static information such as what, why and where we are, what you need to do to come and perform, volunteer, etc. Link to the bb.

* Lots of new items appearing on the front page, of all sorts of different types, keeping the site up to date and giving an impression of how much is going on at the forest.

* I think the links to new forest-related items on Google and YouTube are pretty cool, generally the idea of using the forest site as a hub to link to and aggregate forest-related stuff from elsewhere on the web is really great. Several projects within the forest and people who are friends of the forest have their own sites now, so we want to use the forest front page to prominently link to these sites and to aggregate new items from them, as well as posting our own items. I know Milk is working on this.

What doesn't work:

* The rest of it. Especially maintaining a complex hierarchy of many different pages, links and organisation. In my opinion, we should delete everything else!

* Drupal is a much more powerful and complicated system than we really need, making it difficult for people to get involved. Also by self-hosting our instance of Drupal we're making a lot of geek-work for ourselves. But, we're using it now.

What we need to do is to simplify. Keep (and improve) what works, get rid of the rest. Here's a mockup of how I think the website should go. It's very rough and incomplete but you get the idea. I'm afraid I don't have the time or the desire to dive into Drupal right now, I have a thesis to write and probably shouldn't have spent the hour it took to put together this mockup, but I hope it helps:

http://theforestcafe.tumblr.com/

* Obviously the 'forest' at the top would be replaced with a big logo or banner of some sort.

* The theme is just the default tumblr theme and doesn't feel very forest, too slick. But it illustrates a few things: it's very simple and clear, it uses big text, big blocks of whitespace, and a small number of colours with big colour contrasts to present our content very clearly. It's the complete opposite of the drupal theme we have on forest.org right now.

* In the sidebar (not on its own page) we have the basic, static introductory information. Keep it brief, keep it within the little sidebar on the front page. (This is not really finished in the mockup.)

* In the middle we have a blog where all our items of different types appear. There is only one blog stream, one chronological stream of items. No multiple streams, multiple columns, tags, categories, hierarchies, etc. I posted a few items from theforest.org, forpub and tk t demonstrate.

* Items from forpub, the TK blog, our twitter feed and any other sites we want are automatically imported into this stream as links with descriptions.

* When we post something into the stream it can automatically update our accounts on facebook, twitter etc. with links.

* As well as text, we can post posters, photo galleries, videos and audio directly into this stream. There is not a separate 'visuals' page. The website is a visuals website.

* Structurally/navigationally it's extremely simple. We have the sidebar with the static info, and the blog with the dynamic items. Scroll down to browse through the history of items. That's it. There's a simple search bar that works: if you search for 'golden hour' it will show you all the posts we've made about the golden hour (all the golden hour posters we've posted, etc.)

It's super-easy and quick to post to this, whether you're posting text, images or video, easier than posting to the bb I'd say.

Over time, as content is added to this stream, it'll become a great textual/visual/audio archive of things that happened at the forest.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 3:45 am 
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Especially maintaining a complex hierarchy of many different pages, links and organisation.

there isn't a complex hierarchy - everything off the info page is just a single page. it only looks complex because it's so long, but the plan is to rejig the content and layout to fix this.

Drupal is a much more powerful and complicated system than we really need, making it difficult for people to get involved.

maybe the nuts and bolts of Drupal have a steep learning curve, but IMO the system itself is a great platform for various aspects of what we want from a website.

on the other points and Tumblr example;

you're right about the requirement for a better theme and layout, but that's nothing to do with the system it runs upon, and creating a Drupal theme isn't that much harder than creating a WordPress theme.

there is only one blog stream on theforest.org.uk right now. the aggregation of other info into this is being arranged.

there's already an automatic posting of news items to Twitter (the identi.ca bridge keeps fucking up though). i haven't seen an easy solution for automatic posting to Facebook as of yet, but i'm something i'll keep my eyes peeled for.

the Archive page looks very pretty - http://theforestcafe.tumblr.com/archive - and this is something that could be reproduced in Drupal. the problem with Tumblr is that there is no way to distinguish between posts of a different variety. sure, someone might think to search for 'golden hour', but you can't just look at all 'event' items (not that tumblr has an events system).

It's super-easy and quick to post to this, whether you're posting text, images or video, easier than posting to the bb I'd say.

arguably posting to theforest.org.uk using Drupal is easier than posting to the BB as it has a WYSIWYG interface.

neil said something similar about ease-of-use above. i'm confused as to why there seems to be a myth about the difficulty of posting items (excluding video for now). saying that, i've been using the feedback on and usage of the site by EVS volunteers to refine things and make it easier.

thanks for the thoughts though, i'll keep them in mind for future changes.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 8:35 am 
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milk wrote:
i'm confused as to why there seems to be a myth about the difficulty of posting items

It's not the difficulty of posting items - that's fine. It's the difficulty of doing anything else such as changing links or layout.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 9:46 am 
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So who can actually do the forest website updating besides Milk then?

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 5:24 pm 
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Anyone, in theory. All it requires is signing up for the site (although there should be some way we can use the BB usertable) and getting someone to assign you "content editor" permissions.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 6:07 pm 
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@dan; wot mike said

@neil; making links between and changing the information layout on pages isn't a problem - it's jut that only admins can change the menu links in the header or make the more advanced pages that combine multiple sources of data. theming the site isn't that much harder than theming a similar CMS such as wordpress, though yes, advanced theming does require more knowledge of what Drupal and the modules available for it can do

@mike; using the BB usertable was brought up as an option at the start by myself (it was a small part of the reason i wanted to upgrade the BB to phpBB3), but others weren't keen on the idea so i didn't follow it up. saying that, the cleanest option might be to run an LDAP server to service the BB and Drupal (and more?), but that's a pipedream.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2009 1:13 pm 
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yo

Been messing about with the web site today , and it seems that i cant upload images to put in a page . any help with this would be useful .

more thoughts on drupal vs wordpress .

i redone the tk web page , by including a menu http://theforest.org.uk/tk it was my idea to have a web site within the forest web site for tk originally . but i cant really see how it would work . this page is made using panels and then the content is put into that . but as i found out when someone makes a new page , they will have no menu . they would have to make the page/content . then make a panel , input the content into it . plus the menu . not gonna happen .

ideally it would be nice that each section had own sidebar menu with the sub pages of the respective section and the menu was added automatically each time content was added to the section . a sort of web site within the site .

it bascally how word press works and why people find it usable for a web site . Am not saying it cant be done .But am skeptical about how much effort it would take to create, admin wise these kind of mini web sites within the forest web site . vs how quick it can be to set up a wordpress site . not that setting up a wordpress site is not without it difficultys . but at least work load is spread , rather than depending on very few people who know how to do it . i think this was failing in the joomla web site .

there is alot of load on milk and mike at the moment trying to sort out all these issues , thats a lot to ask . ive been trying to do a few things today myself . but dont want to do something that takes the whole web site out ! it would be nice to concentrate efforts just on the front page and a few other pages that tell something about the forest . get these things running/looking smooth .

the drupal web site is great for the front page ,but i doubt it/we can deal with the complexity of our needs as a community with drupal being our only tool . ultimately they should not be seen as opposed to each other but rather as complimentary.

martin

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2009 11:31 pm 
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images - are you clicking the image icon in the WYSIWYG editor then clicking Browse Server? that should bring up the image selector/uploader window.

adding a page to a menu - in the page editing screen, click on the 'Menu settings' section to open it up. you can select what menu you want to add the link to there plus the weight. (though it's easier to reorder things via the Site Building -> Menus admin screen)

i doubt it/we can deal with the complexity of our needs as a community with drupal being our only tool . ultimately they should not be seen as opposed to each other but rather as complimentary.

while the nuts and bolts of Drupal may be harder to put together to get things going, i'm of the opinion that it is better suited than WordPress to deal with the complexity of of our needs, both now and in the future. you can have complimentary systems that sit alongside each other, but the framework Drupal provides allows one to join things together in a much more tightly knit and varied manner.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2009 11:59 pm 
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part of the problem with Panels is that the devs are still working on the GUI. Panels 3 came out a few months ago now and added the editing system you see through the dashboard. it's not newb friendly yet, but it's a great advance on what was available in Panels 2.

while setting up a panel isn't that easy currently, what i was thinking for, at least for the Info page, was that the Panel represents the Info section of the site and that regular users would just be able to add [sub]Pages to that section.

actually, Panels 3.1 has just come out. in the change log; "Turn panel pane into a template, as it always should have been." this will be nice. i'm just going to install it now.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2009 12:11 am 
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milk wrote:
images - are you clicking the image icon in the WYSIWYG editor then clicking Browse Server? that should bring up the image selector/uploader window.


i get an error , There is no valid directory specified for the file browser!

milk wrote:
adding a page to a menu - in the page editing screen, click on the 'Menu settings' section to open it up. you can select what menu you want to add the link to there plus the weight. (though it's easier to reorder things via the Site Building -> Menus admin screen)

.


adding a page to a menu is no problem . its adding a menu to a page .i know how to do it . but its complicated .


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while the nuts and bolts of Drupal may be harder to put together to get things going, i'm of the opinion that it is better suited than WordPress to deal with the complexity of of our needs, both now and in the future. you can have complimentary systems that sit alongside each other, but the framework Drupal provides allows one to join things together in a much more tightly knit and varied manner.


hopefully drupal will be able to knit together all the diverse web needs we have . That what i think it is best suited for and its what am trying to do knit the web sites together .

I am also having problems making a panel . i get a cant find the page error . but underneath its there . but i cant make it cause there is no option to select a layout .

martin

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2009 12:15 am 
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I think we can stick with Drupal. A lot of work has gone into it, it's up there on our own server and it's working, and I'm sure what you say about it being a good system is true. But I do think we need to cut down and simplify what we're doing with Drupal, and use it more like you would use a simple Tumblr or Wordpress blog.

About the pages beyond the front page, they may not be in a hierarchy but they are complex, many pages linking to many other pages, broken links, outdated info. My opinion: get rid of it all, replace it with a little sidebar or banner of some sort on the front page with just the crucial info and links in a few short paragraphs, like I was trying to show with the sidebar in the tumblr mockup.

About the front page itself, I think what works well is the coloured header and the section below that with the introductory text in bold and the five images horizontally arranged; and the fact that the main content is getting updated frequently with current information, events posters etc. From where the two side-by-side vertical columns start the layout is too cramped and there's too much text. I think two equal-sized columns in the main area is bad. They look too similar, and there's little whitespace and no colour separating them, so it feels cramped. I'd try to have one big column and maybe a smaller, spatially and visually separate sidebar, like in the tumblr theme. A sidebar on either side is even a possibility if needed, as long as they're visually distinct from the main bit in the middle.

About the Tumblr mockup:

I wouldn't bother trying to imitate the Tumblr archives on Drupal. They're slick and everything, but my advice is stick as much as possible with what Drupal does 'by default'. The more you customise the more complex it gets, the more you dig a hole.

I think it's an advantage that you can't distinguish between different posts of different varieties on Tumblr. It's just simpler to search for 'Golden Hour' and find all the posts about Golden Hour.

I also think it's a good thing that Tumblr doesn't have an 'event system'. I don't think we need one. We can: post text and posters about our events to our blog; post text about our events to our twitter feed and have the tweets automatically appear in a sidebar on the front page of our main site; maybe also have a calendar where we add all our events. For a calendar we could use a hosted service like Google Calendar or whatever and just link to it from our main site, and any hosted calendar will let you paste some javascript into your site to show this week's events or whatever you want. That way, we keep our own site simple. I would post big events that have posters to our blog and smaller events that don't to our twitter feed only, and have the tweets appearing in smaller text in a sidebar.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2009 2:16 am 
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on adding images - whoopsy, i was cleaning up the IMCE permissions a couple of days ago and didn't realise they had the titles swapped around. this is fixed now and should be working for you.

adding a menu to a page - see my above post for a part reply. what i'd also like to do is add a "Layout editor" role to go between "Full admin" and "Full content creator" (which i'll change to "Content editor" at some point) for any volunteers who want to help with more than just adding content to the website but who shouldn't get nuts and bolts access.

I am also having problems making a panel . i get a cant find the page error

if you're talking about the admin menu link, then it's bug that crept into the most recent versions.

if you're talking about the page you get to from the 'Create content' link at the bottom, it's working with the newer version at the moment. please give it another go.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2009 2:40 am 
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the image upload is now working , although when adding the image then trying to put it in the center . my browser crashes ! i did manged to do it via saving the image first then doing it .

the panel thing is a bug .

thanks

martin

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2009 2:41 am 
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About the pages beyond the front page, they may not be in a hierarchy but they are complex, many pages linking to many other pages, broken links, outdated info.

this is because i've been focusing on the backend rather than content. i'll look at cleaning things up once i get the Info page menu working fine.

From where the two side-by-side vertical columns start the layout is too cramped and there's too much text. I think two equal-sized columns in the main area is bad. They look too similar, and there's little whitespace and no colour separating them, so it feels cramped. I'd try to have one big column and maybe a smaller, spatially and visually separate sidebar, like in the tumblr theme. A sidebar on either side is even a possibility if needed, as long as they're visually distinct from the main bit in the middle.

this is a combination of a theme and panel layout issue. i certainly agree it needs refining and is on the todo list.

my advice is stick as much as possible with what Drupal does 'by default'. The more you customise the more complex it gets, the more you dig a hole.

unfortunately Drupal doesn't really give a good output by default. though we're somewhat feeling our way with getting the front and other pages looking good, i'm very much keeping it in mind that the methods we choose need to be sustainable into the future, uncomplex for Foresters to add items to and for users to browse.

on the events system - i'm of the opinion that because there's so much going on at the forest that we should keep a separate events system so people get a full view of things through the one system. big events, like the Golden Hour, etc, can have the "Promote to the front page" option checked. these would automatically go to Twitter as do all News items.

the decision to have the event flyer/poster images take up half the front page was based on the fact that it was the norm on the old site to post big fuck off images for upcoming events. this can certainly be changed though and is related to the afore mentioned desire for a refinement/redesign of the front page panel layout and site theme.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2009 2:43 am 
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the panel thing is a bug.

can you select a layout when trying to create a panel currently?

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2009 2:46 am 
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aah, the 'use panels dashboard' wasn't enabled for 'full admin', duh.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2009 3:20 am 
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still not working , i go create panel , from the menu at the top . i get an error message that the page is not found .

martin

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2009 3:46 am 
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confusion - there are panel pages and panel nodes. i don't entirely understand the difference but panel pages use the newer interface and are apparently more powerful so i used them for the front page and visuals page.

"Site building -> Panels -> Dashboard" you can create either panel nodes or panel pages here.

"Create content -> Panel" in the admin menu is broken due to the noted bug.

"Create content" in the links at the bottom, then "Panel" gives you the panel node creation page.

i've asked - http://drupal.org/node/610224 - so as to try and get a better view on which is best.

at this point, given i can't advise on best practice, i'd recommend testing things on a Drupal install of your own for now, else, don't work on the live TotalKunst or other pages.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2009 12:56 pm 
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so I know in theory anyone can do it, but it seems like it takes a lot a lot of learning, so in practise actually very few. I won't be getting involved in this discussion any more, as I don't have the time to learn Drupal and updating, but think this is worth thinking about for the future... Ease of CM is key!! As is beautiful looking, clear site for people to use.
that was my 2 pennies, over and out xx

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when I get my chance I'm going to punch him in the nose, in the nose, in the nose


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2009 3:56 pm 
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as above, the later part of the discussion is not for general theforest.org.uk users as it relates to layout and has no relation to the difficulty on the basics of adding and editing news/event content and/or individual pages!

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hey, if you don't like it, post on the BB (so you can ask about participating for better) | MilkMiruku


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 11, 2009 7:35 pm 
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the website has some wierd shit on front page right now
Quote:

* Unable to create CTools CSS cache directory. Check the permissions on your files directory.
* Unable to create CTools CSS cache directory. Check the permissions on your files directory.



first thing you see

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Our big brother's got no heart,
when I get my chance I'm going to punch him in the nose, in the nose, in the nose


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 12, 2009 1:09 am 
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the bb had a glitch on wednesday. mike smsd me and i checked it with martin, seemed something had happened with temporary file permissions on the server for phpBB although it came back up after 30 mins. it sounds the same kind of thing with Drupal also. i pmd barnabas on fb and he said that while there had been a change on wednesday, it should have been resolved for all accounts. i haven't had a chance to look directly again, but it could be to do with the 'user account' that changed certain files that now Drupal system account can't change.

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hey, if you don't like it, post on the BB (so you can ask about participating for better) | MilkMiruku


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:58 pm 
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wow i understood none of those words xx

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Our big brother's got no heart,
when I get my chance I'm going to punch him in the nose, in the nose, in the nose


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 17, 2009 2:12 pm 
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Milk/Martin: Might it be worth asking Barnabus if he can give us limited superuser access to the box our site is on? Using sudo, you can restrict what commands are run and it would help us if we could fix these permissions errors when they come up, rather than having to wait on Barnabus.

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Mike

Dawnsio 'mlaen i'r gwres prynhawn a rwy'n addo erbyn yfori byddai wedi mynd, hwyl fawr i pawb, hwyl fawr i pawb...


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