Hieroglyphs Update

14 04 2010

Andie and I may be close to signing off on a final design for the site.  If we do go with the current plan, technically it’s quite complex to implement.  That’s probably not a surprise: “good enough” isn’t something either of us is really comfortable with.  We want a strong, individual design even if it is hard to code.

I have also been working on the hieroglyphs.  I need to spend more time on cartouches as they don’t quite meet at the corners, but progress has been good.  As well as the basic, everyday glyphs I’ve a set of full colour glyphs as an alternative.  They are great for tutorials – I’m using them in the user guide I have started to write.  Even better, rotation is now available for all glyphs which moves us convincingingly beyond WikiHiero and most online solutions.

I have also started writing up development notes and release notes for each version.  It’s not necessary yet, but it is best practice.  It means I’ll be ready when I wish to release the code as plugin.  In practice that won’t be until the magazine has launched as I want to make sure everything is stable and working perfectly before I release the code.  Andie and I also want to benefit exclusively from our parser for a few months as well.


WordPress and Hieroglyphs

26 03 2010

Every good magazine deserves … hieroglyphs.  That’s the challenge we’ve been working on this week – along with finally trying to decide a colour scheme, something which is driving us both crazy.

Hieroglyphs are surprisingly problematic.  There is  no established solution for WordPress.  There are fonts but the only comprehensive unicode font is Aegyptus which is 5Mb, and that doubles up for the browsers which require different font file types.  Do you fancy waiting while a 5Mb page downloads?  No, we didn’t think so.  And we don’t want to pay the hosting charges that would involve either!

The solution we are adopting is to allow authors to write in the terse Manuel de Codage (formally Inventaire des signes hiéroglyphiques en vue de leur saisie informatique but usually known as MdC) representation and translate this to the relevant glyphs when articles display.  It won’t work well for full pages of hieroglyphs for which an image might still be best, but for most articles which have snatches of glyphs it’s a very attractive solution.

The intention is that it is so easy that people can use hieroglyphs in comments, so that somebody could quickly write [glyphs]i ii m Htp[/glyphs] in a comment and have it display as hieroglyphs.   Hopefully if we can make hieroglyphics easy to use, discussion about hieroglyphs will be a feature of the magazine and other articles we host.

The inspiration is WikiHiero.  That’s written in PHP and could be ported to WordPress but it isn’t easy to extend.  We will support the WikiHiero syntax, which is what is used to produce hieroglyphs on most wikis, but there are some obvious gaps like no support for shading that need to be addressed.  It might also be good to support a top down display as well as left to right.  On balance, it is easier to write a new parser than try to amend the WikiHiero code.

Busy Busy Busy

9 03 2010

We have achieved a great deal over the past 2 or 3 weeks, even though much of it isn’t visible.  It’s back office stuctural work.

Today we signed up for a second domain name to bring you even more exciting developments in collaboration with another leading blogger.  Watch this space!

Quick Progress Report

14 02 2010

We’ve completed 60% of the user interface for Egyptological Online.  The main gaps are support for separate editions and authors.   As a consequence, page layout on the main screens is stabilising and we are getting deeper into design detail.  For instance the site banner is only a quick, temporary affair and will be replaced over the next 10 days, although it may iterate a few times after that.  As part of the header design, we will probably enhance the navigation menu as well.  Sidebar content and page herarchies are both still evolving.

We also need to “skin” the site.   During functional development we just dropped colours onto elements without much thought.  Egyptological Online should look much better once we have a fully matched colour scheme in place and have teaked some of the space settings.

There is, of course, no content yet (although there is some test content for development purposes).  We have listened to the comments  – thank you – on things like copyright and plagiarism so there are some areas in which we’ll be taking legal advice.  That inevitably means a delay and a May launch is under threat, but we have committed ourselves to do this right even if it means the first issue is later than we hoped.   The most important document for those of you who have said you will write for the magazine is the style guide which is in draft.  That won’t need any legal input so it should be the first formal content we release.  We will make an announcement when it is ready.

Domain – egyptological.com

3 02 2010

In case you haven’t already guessed … the domain we have registered for the magazine project is egyptological.com so the front page of the site will be http://www.egyptological.com, although the montly magazine will have it’s own address for anybody who wishes to jump straight to it.

We have the new cloud hosting in place and WordPress is installed.  There is nothing to see yet as we don’t recommend you visit just yet ….

WordPress on a Cloud

1 02 2010

The technically minded might be interested in some detail of the build.

The site will be built on WordPress.  That is open source software which is entirely in keeping with the idea of a free community magazine.  Although thought of as blogging platform, these days WordPress is very much more and can be used as a Content Management System.  WordPress “magazine” themes are all the rage at present, although to be honest the available themes seem geared more to a glossy newspaper than to a magazine or journal which is published in discrete editions.  We’ll be developing our own theme.

We registered our preferred domain name before Christmas.  Before floating any idea for an online project it’s best to squat the domain(s) one needs.  We took a small hosting package just to try out some ideas.  We have just raised a support ticket to move to a much bigger package which includes 10Gb bandwith per month.  Upgrading now means we don’t need to change server closer to the launch.

The new hosting package is a “cloud” which might be an unfamiliar term to many readers.  In most hosting packages one buys a fixed amount of storage and bandwidth.  If that is exceeded, the host will probably cap the traffic and take the site offline.  In a cloud, the site is spread dynamically across as many servers as it needs to meet demand and the customer just pays for any excess bandwidth used at the end of the month.  As we will be offering the main journal in a series of editions, that really suits us.  In a blog where posts are spread out across the month, traffic is usually fairly even across the month.  Publishing in editions, we are likely to get a lot of visitors when an edition is published.  In a traditional hosting package, the site could slow down under that surge in demand.  A site which is slow just when most people are trying to access it is not ideal!  With a cloud, the server capacity adjusts as needed, with more servers automatically allocated to serve the site during any peaks.  We hope that will mean a responsive site for our readers.  It is a bit more expensive each month, but we think it is worth it.  If anybody would like to know more, our chosen host is SiteHQ.

All too often online you’ll see somebody promoting a hosting provider because they get referral fees.  It means finding a good host is surprisingly difficult as many recommendations are self-serving.  SiteHQ doesn’t run an affiliate scheme.  It’s too early to say whether we would recommend them, but they have a good reputation for quality.  An example of a site running on a SiteHQ cloud is MayorWatch, an online London Magazine.  That’s getting about 1,500 visitors per day which comfortably exceeds our likely traffic.  It is reassuring to know that our chosen host is used to power a site like this.  The speed of the site seems pretty reasonable too.

We are intending to include a section within the new site on how we have built it so that if anybody else is wanting to start an online magazine about something else, our experience may help.  We will tell you when that is available.

Egyptological Magazine To Go Ahead

28 01 2010

As announced on our blogs, Andie and I have decided to go ahead with the plan for an Egyptological journal.     Our thanks to everybody who has offered support.  We will get back to you individually in due course.

This is a big project – and it is being managed as a project with a proper business planning document.  It’s going to be a lot of work and the article cycle can be protracted as anybody who has worked as an editor knows.  We are hoping to launch in May but until we check how this fits with the plans of prospective authors, that is only an aspirational date at this stage and may change.  We’ll post updates here as there are things to report – and a magazine is only part of our plans so stay tuned!