Tuesday, November 14, 2006

More on layout

I think this deserves a post of its own, rather than another comment. But I'll address the side issue of links to the pages etc in a comment on that "thread".

Tasha's photo collage idea is really stimulating - but I think this is yet another thing for the WIBNI list - perhaps as a placefinder navigation device or something.

That's a strong vote of confidence from Paul for the menu and reduced text idea, so I'll defintely continue in that direction. I think for things that are cheap to generate I'll send them down the wire with some stylesheet/javascript to turn them on and off (the way the "show/hide list of excluded waterways works in the options page). For more expensive things (which find nearest certainly is, which rules out having "the nearest waterpoint is at..." on each page (also part of this upgrade involves extending this to "fine nearest pub" etc using the POI data)) I think an AJAX approach to seamlessly fetch and display them would work well.

I think, also, that user configuration of what is shown would be good, with two or three predefined layouts including "everything" and "low bandwidth".

What I might well do is to summarise local facilities ("Show map with pubs, shops and railway station"; "See list of local shops, museums and wireless hotspots") when they aren't displayed. I've also always planned to allow people to chose what things are of interest to them (I will always want to see lists of pubs and second-hand bookshops; others may be more interested in burger bars and wireless hotspots).

I'm having interesting thoughts about a randomly, but weighted, selected photo with buttons to vote on how much you like it (which affects the weighting) as well.

Giving an approx walking time for the distances is a nice idea. They are "as the crow flies" ones, so I'll have to see if that comes up with anything particularly silly.

I'll just keep plodding away. I'm creating this as a separate script, so as soon as I have something half decent I'll publish it and point blog readers to it.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Thoughts on Layout

I'm working on a new page layout for the gazetteer - this is an essential preliminary to the new stuff I'm doing with POI data (since this is where most of it appears). This is the most messy page, and has grown the most during development.

Graphic design and layout aren't my strongest points, and I'm getting a bit stuck. So this is an appeal to all my readers to suggest something a bit better.

My current thoughts have a menu bar down the left, with things like "search", "home page", "set options", "sunrise/sunset","find nearest" and so on. It will also include a data panel with the postcode, OS grid ref, current sunrise/sunset, lat/long etc.

Then, on the right, the main page.

This needs to include at least the following:
Text about the place (such as historical stuff)
Generated text about the place ("... is on the ... canal, 3 miles from ...")
Photographs (sometimes none, one, dozens)
Google maps (if wanted)
Preprogrammed searches (restaurants etc)
Local stuff like shops - optionally tied to the google maps.

Does anyone have any elegant thoughts for what this should look like. Ideally, if you want my neverending gratitude, you could mock-up a page for a few places. You can just grab the HTML for any page and hack it around as much as you like, or make something up with some lorem ipsum and stock photos. I don't really care.

What matters is that the new layout should be able to show all the data included in all the following gazetteer entries, and ideally be easy to add much more to if I want to.

So, not asking much really, am I!

This is also a good time to chuck in any other thoughts on how to make the gazeetteer work better or add thoughts for new gazetteer features.

You can reply by commenting here, or by sending me an email. Googling for "Nick Atty" on uk.rec.waterways will find a currently valid email address for me.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Why can't we just kill them?

What will I be doing on my computer today? Will I be improving CanalplanAC? Will I be writing stuff to help the campaign to save the waterways? No, I'll be doing yet more anti-spammer stuff.

There are clearly programs out there that run down through sites, find forms like the canalplan main input page, scan the page code, extract the fields, construct fake inputs for all the fields, and then push them back to the server.

So everyone who uses CanalplanAC gets slower response just because of the server load. If it was hosted on a pay-per-byte channel I'd be paying for the bandwidth. And I'm now having to add code to stop these malformed inputs breaking the code (safely - it thinks there is a bug elsewhere (as nothing could ever really) look like this and reports it to me). This adds more code, which slows down the whole thing slightly, adds a small processing load everytime it's run, adds more new code which is always prone to have bugs in it, and most importantly it's making me spend time effort and ingenuity on the program that no-one gets anything in return for.

It's Bonfire night tomorrow - perhaps we need to make it annual "burn a spammer" day,